Using Zoom in China

Zoom is used by millions of people around the world every day. I think it’s fair to say it has become an essential online meeting tool that you can’t live without. But in China, Zoom works a little differently, and there are some things you need to know. So, if you’re going to China and need to use Zoom there, this guide is for you. Is Zoom blocked in China? No, but there are limitations. You can still join Zoom meetings in China as a participant. The meeting host just needs to send you the meeting invitation link. If someone sends you a meeting link with zoom.us in it, the link should automatically redirect to zoom.com.cn. This is because zoom.us is blocked in China. Thinking of signing up to Zoom in China? Think again. Zoom no longer sells products directly to customers in mainland China. However, businesses can purchase via local third-party partners. Because of these barriers, locals are turning to other videoconferencing platforms, which I talk about further down. How can I access Zoom in China? Visit zoomcloud.cn/download and download Zoom onto your device. The site’s in Chinese, but don’t panic! First blue button is for Windows and Mac. Second blue button is for Microsoft Outlook (this will add the plugin to your Microsoft Outlook toolbar) Third blue button is a cleanup tool if you have installation problems. Fourth option (barcode) is for iOS and Android phones. You’ll need to provide a valid mobile phone number to verify your identity and access the platform. Just be aware that you’ll be using the Chinese version of Zoom and your data will be stored in Zoom data centers in China. This means that the meetings you have may not be confidential. How can I maintain free expression and privacy using Zoom in China? You can access Zoom in China using your mobile internet connection from home. However, this could cost you a fortune! Trust me, I’ve used global roaming overseas and my bill wasn’t pretty. The other, smarter option is to download a virtual private network (VPN) on your device. You can read my review of the best China VPN (or skip the review and go straight here). I recommend ExpressVPN because my personal experience with it, when working and traveling in China, has been great. Important: you’ll need to download the VPN before you arrive in China as VPN downloads are blocked there. Why is the US version of Zoom banned in China? China is different from many other countries, and so too is the Chinese internet. The Chinese government wants to maintain control over the communication tools that its people use and uphold socialist ideology. Don’t worry though, you can still access Zoom in China without a VPN, as outlined above. Just remember it’s the mainland China version and therefore Chinese rules apply. You’ll only be able to access the US version with a VPN or by using mobile data from back home. What websites and apps are banned in China? All the big ones including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, Gmail, and even news sites like New York Times and BBC. Sadly, even LinkedIn – the last of the foreign social media giants in China – is being phased out by the end of 2021. Refer to this page for more. Zoom in China controversy In 2020, Zoom got itself in hot water for shutting down meetings and even terminating user accounts, following requests from the Chinese government. Zoom has since made a commitment to not allowing requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China. It has also introduced a feature where you can approve or block people from certain countries, as shown below. Zoom now has a country-blocking feature. Image taken from Zoom platform. You can read more about the controversy on Zoom’s US website. Are there Zoom alternatives for China? Yes, there are both international and local alternatives. International alternatives Although major foreign videoconferencing and communication apps (like Slack and WhatsApp) are banned in China, there are some exceptions. Microsoft Teams and Skype can be used in China. In fact, most (but not all) of Microsoft’s platforms can be used in China without a VPN, such as Bing, Office and Outlook. Local alternatives WeChat is super-popular in China and is used by more than one billion people. And fortunately, you can have group chats in WeChat (instructions here). There’s also WeCom, a videoconferencing app that is part of the WeChat family, aimed at businesses and organizations. WeCom claims to have “internationally recognized and bank-level encryption that ensures data security”. Alibaba-owned DingTalk is another enterprise-level alternative. It has over 100 million users. When using any local Chinese apps, just remember that usage may be monitored and the encryption and privacy considerations may be different to what you’re used to. Will using a VPN slow down Zoom in China? A VPN might slow d

Using Zoom in China

Zoom is used by millions of people around the world every day.

I think it’s fair to say it has become an essential online meeting tool that you can’t live without.

But in China, Zoom works a little differently, and there are some things you need to know.

So, if you’re going to China and need to use Zoom there, this guide is for you.

Is Zoom blocked in China?

No, but there are limitations.

You can still join Zoom meetings in China as a participant. The meeting host just needs to send you the meeting invitation link.

If someone sends you a meeting link with zoom.us in it, the link should automatically redirect to zoom.com.cn. This is because zoom.us is blocked in China.

Thinking of signing up to Zoom in China? Think again.

Zoom no longer sells products directly to customers in mainland China. However, businesses can purchase via local third-party partners.

Because of these barriers, locals are turning to other videoconferencing platforms, which I talk about further down.

How can I access Zoom in China?

Visit zoomcloud.cn/download and download Zoom onto your device.

The site’s in Chinese, but don’t panic!

  • First blue button is for Windows and Mac.
  • Second blue button is for Microsoft Outlook (this will add the plugin to your Microsoft Outlook toolbar)
  • Third blue button is a cleanup tool if you have installation problems.
  • Fourth option (barcode) is for iOS and Android phones.

You’ll need to provide a valid mobile phone number to verify your identity and access the platform.

 

Just be aware that you’ll be using the Chinese version of Zoom and your data will be stored in Zoom data centers in China.

This means that the meetings you have may not be confidential.

How can I maintain free expression and privacy using Zoom in China?

You can access Zoom in China using your mobile internet connection from home.

However, this could cost you a fortune! Trust me, I’ve used global roaming overseas and my bill wasn’t pretty.

The other, smarter option is to download a virtual private network (VPN) on your device.

You can read my review of the best China VPN (or skip the review and go straight here).

I recommend ExpressVPN because my personal experience with it, when working and traveling in China, has been great.

Important: you’ll need to download the VPN before you arrive in China as VPN downloads are blocked there.

Why is the US version of Zoom banned in China?

China is different from many other countries, and so too is the Chinese internet.

The Chinese government wants to maintain control over the communication tools that its people use and uphold socialist ideology.

Don’t worry though, you can still access Zoom in China without a VPN, as outlined above. Just remember it’s the mainland China version and therefore Chinese rules apply.

You’ll only be able to access the US version with a VPN or by using mobile data from back home.

What websites and apps are banned in China?

All the big ones including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, Gmail, and even news sites like New York Times and BBC.

Sadly, even LinkedIn – the last of the foreign social media giants in China – is being phased out by the end of 2021.

Refer to this page for more.

Zoom in China controversy

In 2020, Zoom got itself in hot water for shutting down meetings and even terminating user accounts, following requests from the Chinese government.

Zoom has since made a commitment to not allowing requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.

It has also introduced a feature where you can approve or block people from certain countries, as shown below.

Zoom country checkbox

Zoom now has a country-blocking feature. Image taken from Zoom platform.

You can read more about the controversy on Zoom’s US website.

Are there Zoom alternatives for China?

Yes, there are both international and local alternatives.

International alternatives

Although major foreign videoconferencing and communication apps (like Slack and WhatsApp) are banned in China, there are some exceptions.

Microsoft Teams and Skype can be used in China.

In fact, most (but not all) of Microsoft’s platforms can be used in China without a VPN, such as Bing, Office and Outlook.

 

Local alternatives

WeChat is super-popular in China and is used by more than one billion people. And fortunately, you can have group chats in WeChat (instructions here).

There’s also WeCom, a videoconferencing app that is part of the WeChat family, aimed at businesses and organizations.

WeCom claims to have “internationally recognized and bank-level encryption that ensures data security”.

Alibaba-owned DingTalk is another enterprise-level alternative. It has over 100 million users.

When using any local Chinese apps, just remember that usage may be monitored and the encryption and privacy considerations may be different to what you’re used to.

Will using a VPN slow down Zoom in China?

A VPN might slow down your online speed slightly. This is due to the encryption process and connection to a remote server.

One thing you can do to ensure you have the fastest speed is connecting to a nearby server.

So, if you were in Beijing you would choose a server in South Korea over one in the US. There aren’t any VPN servers located in mainland China.

What if my VPN doesn’t work in China?

Some solo travelers who absolutely can’t go without Wi-Fi internet access get two VPNs (i.e. from two different companies) for peace of mind.

However, for travelers in groups the solution is simpler and cheaper.

Last time I was in China, I made sure that each person in the group had a VPN from a different company. There were times that one VPN would be down, so we used a different VPN.

This hack helped us a lot.

You can also access a different server location from within your VPN app, but sometimes this doesn’t do much.

If the connection is down, it’s down, and you might just need to wait a little while (Chinese internet is sometimes intermittent). Or, you can reach out to the VPN company’s customer service team.

Is there anything else I need to do before leaving for China?

Whether you’re going to China for business or pleasure, the four most important things to have for your trip are:

  • Valid passport
  • Visa if applicable
  • Phone with VPN
  • Money (cash and cards).

If you arrive in China with only these four things as well as the clothes on your back, you’re gonna be OK!

But of course, there are some other things you might want to consider. I recommend reading this article about planning, especially if you haven’t been to China before. 

 

Key takeaway from using Zoom in China

You can use the local version of Zoom in mainland China, so don’t stress too much.

Just join meetings as a participant, and remember that your usage may be monitored and different data laws apply in China.

If you want to access the international version you’ve always used, and access it privately, you’ll need to get a VPN before you touch down on Chinese soil. Otherwise, using mobile internet data from home could cost you a fortune.

Again, take a read of my review of the best China VPN. Or, skip the review and go straight here.

Have an amazing time in China. It’s a fun and crazy place – you’re going to love it!

I hope my article about using Zoom in China has helped you. If there is anything you need to know about traveling or working in China, just ask a question below. I enjoy answering them.

Image credit: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash.

FAQ about Zoom in China

Will Zoom work in China?

You can access Zoom in China as a participant, using the local version of Zoom. If you want to use the international version on Wi-Fi, you’ll need a VPN.

How do I use Zoom in China?

Download the local version on your device. Or, keep using the international version via your data plan from home (this could be costly) or via a VPN that you should download before you arrive in China.

What are the alternatives to Zoom in China?

Microsoft Teams and Skype are good international alternatives to Zoom in China.

What do Chinese people use instead of Zoom?

They use WeChat for video calls. Businesses use WeCom, which is also in the WeChat family. Another alternative is DingTalk, which is owned by Alibaba.