China has a sophisticated communications and telephone infrastructure, the internet is fast and affordable, and keeping in touch with friends and family will be easy. It's still essential to know about some of the peculiarities of living in China before making the move.

Chinese media infrastructure and telecommunications are largely controlled by three state-run enterprises – China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. The result is that censorship is a reality, and expats may not be able to access services they might have been used to in their home country

Internet in China

In major cities such as Beijing, internet access is widely available through home connections, internet cafes and free WiFi at many hotels, airports, restaurants and cafes. 

Home users can choose between 4G connections or DSL connections through one of the three largest internet providers in China, which are Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. 5G connectivity is also rapidly expanding and leading Chinese smartphone makers are already releasing phone models with 5G capabilities. 

Anyone can take out an internet subscription by visiting one of a China Mobile, China Telecom or China Unicom outlet. Alternatively, expats could ask a Chinese-speaking colleague to call the provider's office and schedule a home visit. Installation is generally fast, although the price will depend on the location, broadband speed and the duration of the contract. 

Great Firewall

Services such as Gmail, Skype, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter cannot be accessed in China without a workaround. Most expats in China highly recommend the use of a VPN, which is essential if they want to access these sites, and if they'd like to watch streaming services such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer. It's best to avoid free VPN providers as they often collect and sell information on their users. Rather, subscribe to an established VPN company such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN or SurfShark.

Mobile phones in China

China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom are also the biggest mobile phone operators in the country. The majority of new arrivals get a pay-as-you-go package, though contracts are also available. Applicants may need to supply their passport and visa in order to buy a SIM card.


While Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram might be all the rage in the US, UK and other Western countries, China's most popular instant messaging app is WeChat. It's similar to WhatsApp, but can also be used to make payments, do shopping and more. With over a billion users, having the WeChat app is essential if expats want to communicate with others in China. Businesses often use it for internal communication too.

English media in China

English-language media in China is easily accessible. The CCTV (China Central Television) news channel provides around-the-clock coverage in English and is known to be more liberal than most Chinese channels.

There are also several options in print media such as China Daily and China Times, as well as regional newspapers such as Shanghai Daily.

Expats will need a VPN network to be able to access Western newspaper websites.

Expat Health Insurance

Cigna Health Insurance

Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Medical insurance specifically designed for expats. With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider.

Get a quote from Cigna Global – 10% off

Moving Internationally?

Sirelo logo

International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes from select removal companies now!