When I told friends about our big move from the US to China, many said I should write a blog to share my adventures with them and to stay connected. Back then I didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t even very active on Facebook, and I definitely didn’t feel like a blogger.
So when I eventually started this website, I didn’t want it to be a personal blog for friends and family, but more a resource for new expats. The Beijing Expat Guide is my very first website, and I learned a lot along the way, including dealing with some China-specific challenges.
Some of you may have had the same conversations as I had about sharing your new life in a blog. If you consider starting a blog in China, or continuing your existing blog from China, keep reading. (This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you buy services using the links here, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting the Beijing Expat Guide this way!)
You need VPN to access typical blogger platforms
Many bloggers use free blogging platforms like blogger.com or wordpress.com. Unfortunately, those are not accessible in China without a VPN. (as well as some recommendations for the best VPNs for China expats). In general, websites with the word “blog” in the URL may be blocked in China.
So if you already have a blog on one of these platforms and you want to continue from China you need to have VPN.
Over the last years, China has been increasingly cracking down on foreign VPN services. Even though there are many different VPN providers to choose from, many don’t work too well, especially lately. My personal favorite VPN is ExpressVPN, but there are plenty of others that work well. (Bonus: Get 3 months of free service with ExpressVPN when you use the links on the Beijing Expat Guide)
A Self-Hosted Website is a Good Alternative
If you are willing to pay a small hosting fee, you can have your website hosted with one of the many hosting companies like Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy, to name just a few. The advantages are that you can select your own website name without having blogspot, wordpress or such part of your URL.
You can still use the WordPress framework on a self-hosted site and have many options available to design and customize your website with different themes and plugins.
The Beijing Expat Guide is hosted with Bluehost. I use WordPress with a Genesis theme and a variety of plugins to speed up and secure the site.
Some Hosting Companies are More Accessible in China
Smaller websites are usually hosted on a shared server because this is the least expensive option. That means your website has the same IP address as other websites hosted on the same server. Here lies a danger for China… If one of the other websites on the server is blocked in China because of its content, your site will be blocked too. Just because it shares the same IP address. The great firewall of China filters by IP and not by website name – something I learned when I helped someone with his coffee website that you couldn’t access from within China. Coffee!
My research revealed that the known cheapest hosting providers may be a bit more vulnerable to this issue. To avoid it you could pay for a dedicated server but that is much more expensive. Or you could use a hosting company with a better track record. I would not use a Chinese hosting company though. The cheaper ones are all in Chinese, and if they have an English interface they are more expensive than international web hosting services.
I have not had any issues with access in China with Bluehost web hosting. Not for the Beijing Expat Guide or other websites I’m involved with. I actually moved the blocked coffee website I was helping from GoDaddy to Bluehost, which restored access. I can only recommend using Bluehost for hosting your website.
Write and publish your adventures in China
With the right setup, you can easily share your new experiences with your family, friends and the world. Many resources describe in detail how to get started with a blog or website in general. Now you also know what it takes to blog from China.