Can G Suite be used in China?

We constantly get asked about this question both at the seminars and in the office. Some people claim that Microsoft’s Office 365 can be used in China, while G Suite can’t be. But is this true? To find out the answer, read on.

There’s no such thing as “G Suite for China”

In China, Office 365 is not distributed and sold through Microsoft directly, but through an authorized reseller called 21Vianet. The Office365 they sell is a “Chinese version of Office 365” which cannot be used together with the “Overseas version of Office 365”. This means that the username and password of the “Chinese version” cannot be used to log in to the “Overseas version” of Office 365. The “Chinese version of Office 365” is authorized by the Chinese government to be distributed and used within China. With G Suite’s case, however, there’s no such thing as a Chinese government approved version of G Suite for China.

A roaming plan is the short-term solution

“Roaming” means that even when you are traveling to a place outside of your ISP’s service area, you will still have access to telecommunications services (including access to the internet) through the network of a local partner of your ISP. If you’re traveling to China and the roaming plan you purchase uses Hong Kong or Macao’s network, then you will have a Hong Kong IP address.
Not only are you able to access G Suite without any problem, other apps such as Facebook and Instagram can also be browsed just-right. On the contrary, however, some Chinese local apps such as DiDi, the famous transportation app in China, cannot be used with a roaming plan because those apps will not accept users with a foreign IP. In conclusion, as long as you don’t connect to a Chinese local network, you will not be affected by the “Golden Shield” of the internet.

Consider MPLS or SD-WAN for the long-term

The most stable way to use G Suite in China is through MPLS because it will route the Internet traffic to networks outside of China, avoiding the risk of disconnection. However, this also implies that users will only be allowed to access G Suite from within their office building.
A more cost-effective option than MPLS though, is the SD-WAN. The cost of using a SD-WAN service could be 50% lower than that of MPLS for the same bandwidth. It is noteworthy that both SD-WAN and VPN are under the regulation of the Chinese government, and are therefore not able to guarantee a 100% stable network connection, especially with the VPN. The Chinese government’s regulation on the use of VPN has become more and more stringent. We suggest not including VPN as a solution to using G Suite in China in the first place. By the way, for the use of G Suite, about 20M bandwidth is needed for MPLS or SD-WAN in companies consisting of 30 to 50 people, and 50M in companies consisting of over 100 people.

Best practice: use a local mail system in China

For multinational enterprises that have branch offices in China, if it is not mandatory for that China branch to be on G Suite, it is best to choose a legally authorized email system for the China office while the other offices around the globe use G Suite. Just make sure that the two systems can send and receive emails to each other without any trouble.

G Suite is simply not favoured to be used in China

Basically, all transmission of information is under the surveillance of the Chinese government. Since a government-approved, legitimate version of G Suite for China does not exist, businesses that use G Suite through SD-WAN bear the risk of unpredictable disconnection between PoPs, as the Chinese government considers all encrypted forms of data transmission as targets of regulation.
G Suite is such an inseparable part of an enterprise, and as people rely heavily on it in order to do their jobs, it has to be very stable and reliable. One does not want any uncontrollable factors to prevent their business from running smoothly. Therefore, we simply do not recommend G Suite to companies that are doing business in China. Apart from that, ccTLD for China, such as the *.cn domain, cannot be used to apply for G Suite. Chinese companies who wish to use G Suite must use other domains, such as *.com.

The connections between servers are not blocked

Many people think it is the communication between servers in China and servers in other countries outside of China that are being blocked by the Chinese government. This is a misunderstanding. In fact, what the Chinese government actually blocks is the client-side connection, and this is the reason why people cannot access Google and Facebook there. If the Chinese government really did block the traffic of network packets between servers in China and servers in other countries, then China would not be able to do any transactions with foreign countries. If that were the case, then how would a bank in China carry out transactions with a foreign bank? Therefore, it is safe to say that communications between back-end servers are not being blocked.

It is never the case for the regional office of a multinational enterprise to use G Suite compulsively just because the head office is using G Suite. Multinational companies that are using G Suite across multiple overseas offices should consider other solutions other than G Suite that are legitimate and can be used without any trouble, for stable communication with China.