Technology in China

March 21, 2012The Experience


China Horizons and Cellphones

Volunteer participants will be given cellphones upon arrival in China. You will not be asked to sign a cellphone contract. You will receive a pay-as-you-go phone and a SIM card. Once the initial charge is depleted, you will be responsible for additional pay-as-you-go minutes.

Sending text messages is the cheapest method of communicating within China. Minutes are reasonably priced if calls are placed within your city and province; however, calling from outside your province or calling someone in another province is more expensive. The cellphone company will deduct a very small service fee each month from your balance.

Paid participants are responsible for all cellphone related costs, if they chose to use a cellphone in China. Your school and liaison will be available to assist you in purchasing a phone and SIM card.

Taking a Cellphone to China

Participants may choose to take their own cellphone to China if they desire.

Most USA purchased cellphones can be used in China. Not all cellphone companies in China use the same wireless network. We recommend consulting your cell phone provider or manufacturer to ensure that your phone can be used in China, and if so, which Chinese cellphone companies are compatible with your device.  Many USA phones need to be ‘unlocked’ in order to work on a Chinese network.


Smartphones are becoming increasingly popular in China. If you take a smartphone to China, you will want to work with your Liaison (and ask them to assist you in communicating with a cellphone provider employee) regarding the best options for price, speed, and 3G/4G coverage.

Cellphone Providers in China

The three main cellphone providers in China are:

  • China Mobile (中国移动通信)
  • China Telecom (中国电信, )
  • China Unicom (中国联通)

Laptops and Tablets

Laptop Computers

Many China Horizons teachers take laptops to China. Laptops are a great resource. They are an asset in preparing lessons, communicating with home, and often times, entertaining. 

Computer technology is fairly up-to-date in China, including technology regarding Apple products. It is not difficult to find repair shops, components, and everything computer related.

Most apartments are equipped with internet via an ethernet cable.


Tablet computers of all variety and sizes have become common in China.

Although WiFi is commonplace in China, it is unlikely your schools will provide WiFi in  your apartment. Schools have gotten better at providing it, but you should not plan on having WiFi in your apartment.

If you plan to take a tablet computer or other devices that require the use of WiFi (Kindle, ipod touch, etc.) you will either need to purchase a router in China or take one with you. If you live on campus it is likely the schools IT department will have to assist you with installing the router.

Communicating with Home

Email is the best, most reliable way to communicate with family and friends. You will have a difficult time using gmail while you’re in China. We suggest setting up an account with a different email provider before you go.

Skype, FaceTime, Wechat and other similar video calling services and applications are reliable ways to communicate with people living outside China. Of course the reliability of these services depend on the speed of your internet connection.

Instant messaging and text messaging services and applications are reliable and common ways to communicate.

Calling cards can be purchased for a reasonable price, however, they are becoming slightly less common and reliable.

Internet Regulations in China

Many participants ask questions regarding internet regulations in China.  China Horizons encourages participants to observe the local laws while in China. However,  for participants planning to use a VPN or proxy server, here is some basic information regarding both services.

VPN’s (Virtual Private Network)

VPN’s transport data through the internet privately and securely for all internet connected program (iTunes, Skype, IM, email clients, video/audio streaming program, VioP’s, web browsers, etc).  VPN’s are pretty reliable

A quick Google search will provide you with pages of VPN services. You are going to want to do your research. China Horizons is happy to share some unprofessional advice about our experiences regarding reliable and unreliable VPN services. We do not want to publicly promote or discredit any VPN service. If you would like some advice, please feel free to contact us.

There are a few popular VPN protocols: PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN. Do a little research to compare and contrast these different protocols to find which fits your needs best. For example, OpenVPN is the fastest, most secure protocol, however, it only works with desktop and laptop computers, not mobile devices. PPTP is quick and fast on mobile devices, but slower and less reliable than OpenVPN on desktop and laptop computers.

Some colleges and universities offer free VPN service and setup for students. Although some schools do not advertise this service, if asked,  they are happy to assist you in setting up a free VPN.  Past teachers have had good experiences with the VPN’s provided by their schools.

Proxy Servers

There are several types of proxy servers, the most common is the web proxy. Web proxies act as a middle-man in connecting and encrypting you as you browse with a web browser. Using a web proxy makes it possible for you to use a browse the internet anonymously. Proxies typically slow your internet connection down more than VPN’s, and are often a lot less reliable.

There are a lot of free websites that act as proxies, however, these can be created by anyone, meaning you may still be able to connect to websites anonymously, but you cannot be sure your information is secure from the individual providing the free proxy service.

There are reputable companies who sell reasonably priced proxy services. Reputable proxy servers typically work okay if you are only concerned with secure web browsing (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.).

Websites Commonly Not Accessible in China

  • Facebook
  • Hulu (Regional Restrictions)
  • Netflix (Regional Restrictions)
  • Youtube
  • Blogger
  • Twitter
  • Picasa
  • Google+
  • Vimeo
  • Google (Redirected to


Dropbox is currently not accessible in China, and can only be accessed with the use of a VPN or proxy server.

Dropbox explains their service best. “Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, documents, and videos anywhere. Any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers…. Dropbox also makes it super easy to share with others…”

Dropbox ia a convenient and safe way to share pictures, videos, and experiences with family and friends back home. Teachers often share pictures and videos with China Horizons.

Here is a link to the Dropbox website:

Once you download and install Dropbox:

  1. Create new folders inside your dropbox folder (‘pictures for Grandma,’ ‘Friends,’ or ‘China Horizons,’ etc.).
  2. Copy and paste the files you want to share (do not just drag and drop the original files) into a folder.
  3. Right click a folder, go to ‘Dropbox,’ ‘share this folder.’
  4. This will open up your web browser and take you to the Dropbox website. A window will appear where you can add email address of others who have Dropbox accounts.  Click ‘share folder’ and you are done. An email will be sent and the folder you shared will apear on the desktop/mobile device of the people you shared it with.
  5. Anytime anyone makes a change to the folder (add files or delete files) it will change in everyones folder.
  6. You don’t need to create new folders every time you want to share new files. You only need to copy and paste new files into the folder you already shared.

Don’t drag and drop files into your dropbox. Everyone you have shared the folder with has the ability to modify it. If they delete a file from your dropbox, it’s gone. Always copy and paste.  Dropbox backsup files on their website for a period of time, but it is better to be safe than sorry!