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The Challenges of OSINT Research in China

Image credit: Daniel Zender

Today in 2024, It is well known that the People's Republic of China tries to limit the free flow of information on the internet. In light of this, this guide gives an outline of some of the problems that open source experts looking into China face, mostly those who are not in China.

This is meant to give people who are new or starting to explore OSINT on China professionally, an idea of the problems they might run into. Since 2017, it has become harder to do open source research on China because of changing filtering methods and stricter rules that make it harder to stay anonymous online.

Researchers can't always use methods that worked well in the past if the Chinese government finds out about them and puts new limits on them. This means that it is getting harder to get to Chinese websites and social media apps and to look into them.

The Cat & Mouse Chase

The fact is, China doesn't want you to have ability or access to information that may give you insights or advantage that is not in their national interest, so the game most Western investigators play is trying to use methods that unfortunately don't work anymore since they are blocked or restricted by the Chinese government.

Sacrificing Perfect OPSEC & Anonymity

The Cyberspace Administration of China strictly controls the Chinese internet. They put a lot of limits on the information that can be viewed and watch what people do on websites and social media. People often call all of these rules together the "Great Firewall of China."

Websites that aren't Chinese are blocked, like Google, Facebook, and YouTube. COSINTI offers a collection of Chinese websites and apps that open source researchers might be interested in. These include the search engine Baidu and the social media apps WeChat (Weixin), QQ Tencent, and Weibo.

You need to sign up with a Chinese phone number and SIM card in order to use many of these sites in mainland China. To get a Chinese SIM card, you have to link it to your real name. This is one of the first problems that any OSINT Western investigator will have to deal with.

If you wanted to buy a SIM card before 2019, you had to show a photocopy of your ID. Later that same year, the rules were changed to include a face scan as well, to stop theft. Because of these steps, it is very hard to stay private while doing open source study, but regardless of these restrictions, we show you working methods to obtain access to most restricted applications and resources.

Western investigators who got a Chinese SIM card while they were in China, It may be possible that it is much easier for you to open accounts, register, access them. However, this is not the case with 99% of Westerners with the need or interest to explore China's internet.

Western investigators who log in to Chinese websites and platforms without burner accounts or mobile devices, reveal their name to the website or app provider, which could then give that information to the government. Obviously, these risks are a lot higher for Chinese people. Aside from safety concerns, Chinese people often use their social media accounts to access important internet services. If they use these accounts for open source study, this access could be lost.


As we covered in the last edition of November in the Chinese OSINT Investigator Resource Book, we showed you a method to bypass QQ restrictions, install it, run it, access it with multiple possible options to create an account.


Next edition we focus on WeChat, where we will explore bypassing unique functions this app offers. All that can be beneficial for Westerners to gather OSINT from China's internet.

The most advanced course on Chinese OSINT in the market

Enroll today and get 4 month premium subscription, with 2 full updated publications of latest resources, methods, techniques and search strategies to OSINT China like a pro.

We teach you how to bypass, access and collect information, search and find new resources of information with the confidence of a local.

The goal of COSINTI is to get latest working methods.

Check the link to COSINTI, you may watch some related videos, and read related blogposts.


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