We have stuggled with numerous proxy server and virtual private network (VPN) solutions since first arriving in China and have finally found a service that delivers what it promises: Astill.com.
Astrill happens to be one of the few services that we've tried that actually delivers what it promises: fast, reliable, and relatively inexpensive proxy server AND VPN services with POP mail access (most VPN services disable POP mail access to save bandwidth).
Subscriptions can be purchased on a monthly, quarterly, semiannual, and annual basis. Readers who access Astrill.com through Middle Kingdom Life will automatically receive a flat five (5) percent discount on all subscription packages.
If you don't need true VPN capability, then you can run the service as a proxy server through a TSR control panel with proxy servers located in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, and France (all for one fee). You will not need to manually configure your browser: Astrill automates the process. This is the way to go if you're hitting the Great Firewall of China more often than you care to.