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Reaching customers behind China's Great Firewall

By Juwai, 10 August 2018

While getting behind the China’s Great Firewall for business is a big hurdle, there are ways to place your property listings easily within the market. 


Slipping through the Firewall

For those who need to access Facebook or Twitter, which are still officially blocked, some companies and individuals circumvent the government’s effort by subscribing to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

While there are some success in showing your property website which is foreign hosted through VPN for example, access may suddenly be blocked or at best, throttled later when the Firewall’s algorithms and programming pick up the existence of illegal VPN service providers.1   

Users who are most affected are foreign corporations, scholars and scientists who need access to the World Wide Web for unfiltered research and communications. In 2017 a company survey found that 14 percent out of 731 million in China use VPNs daily.2  


Government solutions

While the government do not ban outright VPN service providers, they encourage users who access the global internet to go through approved state providers like China Mobile and China Unicom.3 This conveniently also becomes an avenue for income from foreign companies while supporting homegrown service providers.    

Businesses that use VPNs think that they are necessary for the security of communications, like international real estate negotiations for example, but the government of China assures that the channel providers will not pry.3    

“Those who want to access the global internet "can rent lines or networks from business operators which have set up international entry and exit ports in accordance with the law",  Zhang Feng, Chief Engineer, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), 20 January 2018.

For the rest of China’s millions of internet users who conduct their daily businesses, shopping and social life via apps like WeChat and AliPay, there is no need for VPN. This has not been a big issue for many of China's 772 million individual internet users, last count January 2018.4 This is the generation that grew up with an internet ecology that is different from the rest of the world.5   

This unique situation presents another hurdle for foreign companies looking to tap into the vast market that lay behind the Firewall; how do they engage these potential customers who are used to different internet channels?


Make use of existing platforms within China

The easiest way is to leverage on companies that are already government-approved in China like which hosts on both sides of the Firewall. This is a big advantage that puts property listings within sight of millions of potential buyers even before they venture out of the country in search.  

The Great Firewall of China has managed to protect its citizens from external influences for almost 20 years, hence the name Golden Shield.6 If foreign property agents and developers want to tap into the Chinese real estate investor market behind the Firewall, they either keep up with the evolving parameters and guidelines, or partner existing service providers like, who already rack up 3.1 million foreign property searches by Chinese buyers every month.




Sources: 1. TravelChinaCheaper: Is it Legal to Use a VPN in China?; 2. ZDNet: VPNs can still be used in China despite March 31 ban; 3. Phys.Org: China directs users to approved VPNs as firewall tightens; 4. Technode: Chinese internet users grow to 772 million; 5. SFGate: A generation grows up in China without Google, Facebook or Twitter; 6. Wikipedia: Great Firewall