Adopted by the World: China and the Rise of Global Intimacy

Adopted by the World: China and the Rise of Global Intimacy
Jack Maren Neubauer


“Adopted by the World” explores the histories of international adoption and child sponsorship in China from the 1930s to the present to illustrate China’s crucial but unrecognized role in shaping global humanitarian practices. After the outbreak of full-scale war with Japan in 1937, Chinese child welfare organizations developed a new form of humanitarian fundraising in which private citizens across the world “adopted” Chinese children by funding their lives at orphanages in China. Under the adoption model, Chinese children and their foreign “foster parents” built personal relationships through the exchange of photographs, gifts, and translated letters. Their relationships constituted a new mode of affective and material exchange across national, racial, and cultural boundaries that the author terms “global intimacy.” At the same time, the adoption plan was also deeply ideological. “Adopted by the World” argues that Chinese child welfare institutions cultivated sentimental ties between children and their foster parents to secure international support for a range of competing political projects. As the adoption plan expanded to new locations such as Japan and Korea during the 1950s, it emerged as one of the most culturally significant and politically controversial humanitarian programs in Cold War East Asia.

Recent scholarship has argued that the expansion of humanitarian aid to Asia served the Cold War foreign policy interests of Western powers. In contrast, this dissertation reveals how the administrators, recipients, and critics of humanitarian aid in China both shaped and challenged the post-WWII global humanitarian order.


Jack Maren Neubauer

PhD defended at

Columbia University




Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)