Gmail access remains elusive for computer users in China

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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@gcluley

Gmail in China, binnedIt’s not good news if you’re in China and need access to your Gmail email account. You’re still blocked.

As previous reported, access to Gmail was completely blocked in China on December 26th, amid speculation that the Beijing authorities had intentionally prevented citizens from accessing the service.

Of course, this will also have affected Gmail-using holidaymakers and business folks who are visiting the country.

Earlier this year, in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, China cut off access to Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Search. Presumably they were concerned that activists might be using the tools to share information or organise protests.

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However, until a week or so ago it was still possible for Gmail users to access their mailboxes through apps like Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, and Apple iPhone’s Mail which use POP, SMAP, and IMAP rather than the conventional web interface.

But on December 26th, that door was abruptly shut. Google says the problem is not at its end, so all eyes have to turn to China.

China is, perhaps predictably, unimpressed with that and TechCrunch reports the state-run media as saying… well.. that we should just trust China.

The English version of China’s Global Times said the glitch fueled “unnecessary speculation,” noting that “we need to have faith that China has its own logic in terms of Internet policy and it is made and runs in accordance with the country’s fundamental interests.”

Google’s Transparency Report site shows that Chinese access to Gmail has had tiny hiccups of promise in the last few days, but access remains fundamentally busted.

Gmail still broken in China

Of course, this continued obstruction isn’t going to do Google (or its China-based users) any good at all. Affected users will either have to find a VPN that can circumvent the Great Firewall of China, or (as will probably be the choice of many users) select an alternative email supplier that has the approval of the country’s rulers.

Of course, regardless of the hassle of no longer having access to your message archive and contacts lists, switching to a state-approved email supplier may ultimately bring its own complexities and privacy concerns.

For a higher level of protection and privacy, encrypt your email and use a VPN to keep your online activity better hidden from prying eyes.


Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

One comment on “Gmail access remains elusive for computer users in China”

  1. fred

    yes, Gmail doesn't work at all in Shanghai.
    but a lot of other famous are working…
    for instance , I simply use my iCloud.com email.
    that works without problem.
    Fred, April 2016

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