Adopte una bitácora

Not long after AP did a story on China which mentioned Adopt a Blog, Italy’s major newspaper Corriere della Sera also picked up the story. That’s likely how Punto Informatico, an Italian site, got word of it. From there, it has spread to the Spanish language blogosphere via

>La iniciativa se llama Adopt a Blog (adopte una bitácora​) y persigue crear una ‘red de libre pensamiento’ que permita dar conocer las ideas, las opiniones y el pensamiento de los ciudadanos chinos ‘no alineados’.

Trackbacks show it has spread via at least three other Spanish language blogs (Noticias de, SimDalom :: WyP, Arkangel YABlog). It’s pretty exciting to see one’s idea spread and gather support on a global scale (I derive a special pleasure from seeing myself written about in foreign languages, and in this case I can actually read it), but the sad part is Adopt a Blog still isn’t going anywhere. I have not found the sponsor I was looking for.

Of course, Adopt a Blog is not the only hope for free blogging in China, by any means. Others are working hard on a variety of solutions. Adopt a Blog may never really go anywhere, and if that’s the case I’m happy just contributing my ideas, possibly influencing the development in a small way.

Whatever happens, though, I should say to the Spanish blogosphere: Gracias por su apoyo! Estoy contento que el proyecto tenga tanto apoyo en las bitácoras hispanohablantes y espero el día cuando información en China sea libre.

May 8 Update: Isaac Mao reports that Chinese bloggers’ situation is worsening. (Thanks to Gordon for pointing this out to me.)

And, for an alternative view (on why Adopt a Blog is a bad name), you can check out an e-mail I received.

>Subject: Incorrect use of Adoption language
Date: 4/28/2005 2:55 AM

>As an adoptive parent and passionate advocate for adoption, I was disappointed and saddened to see the promotion for your ADOPT-A-BLOG.

>Such cavalier use of the word adoption suggests particularly to children, that adoption is a short-term commitment of money to a cause, not a lifelong commitment of parents to children. This marketing ploy creates confusion in the minds of adopted children and their nonadopted peers, encouraging predictable (and avoidable) teasing and taunts and questioning the permanence of our families. It diminishes a wonderful, life-affirming, permanent way to form a family that deserves your respect.

>Adoption is not sponsorship. It is a permanent commitment. For those of us touched by adoption, we know that adoption is forever, and we cringe when the word is used as a attention grabbing gimmick. Adoption is a legal, sacred bond that forms a loving family equal in every way to families formed through birth. Adoption is just another way to build a family, one of which we are justly proud.

>Lest you think we are oversensitive, let me stress that language is important. The way we describe such things as adoption tells us–and our children–how society really feels. While we see such things as “adopt-a-highway,” “adopt-an-animal,” and even “adopt-a pothole,” such usage does not make it right and only underscores society’s ignorance. Some adults may understand that you’re just being cute. Young children will take you at your word.

>The National Zoo solved this problem decades ago by calling their program Friends of the National Zoo. The Oakland Zoo recently responded to adoptive parents�� request and changed their program to Sponsor-an-Animal. Clearly, this is not a new concern but one that we continually face.

>Some organizations “get it” and make the switch to more accurate and respectful language. When will your organization understand it?

>There are thousands of adoptive families in the world. Thousands are touched by adoption within their immediate families. It is a growing way to build a family, and it is changing the face of the family as a result. We in the adoption community understand that the use of adoption language in fundraising is born of ignorance, and it is up to us to educate. By writing this letter, I hope that you will take our concern to heart and finally, after having this problem brought to your attention, get it–and fix it.

>We ask that you respect adopted children and adoptive families by using the appropriate words to describe your program. We look

>forward to hearing that you have reconsidered your past resistance to change and are now willing to hear us, validate our concerns, and respect our children. When that day comes, I will be pleased to say I support your organization and will proudly point it out in the adoptive community.

All I can say is I fully support the adoption of children, and I’m sorry if she takes the inevitable evolution of language personally.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. ÍÐµÄ Says: May 7, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    I don’t want to start another paranoia thread, but I have the distinct feeling that if Adopt a Blog did take off at all, you wouldn’t be in China long. Think about it. To put it bluntly, it is really just a way to subvert government censorship in China. I don’t think you have to be paranoid to see the obvious consequences of that action for a foreigner living in China. If 10 people end up using it and they are all blogging in English, sure, the government won’t care.

    Anyway, I guess page 1 of the Da Shan “How to Suceed in China without Really Trying” handbook says something about not starting a subvert-the state-power blog machine.

    I think Adopt a blog is a great idea, but I guess I wouldn’t have the guts you have to promote it if I were living in China and was planning on staying there permanently.

  2. ÍеÄ,

    If it really got off the ground, I would cease to be involved with it directly.

  3. That letter sounds like a case of cultivating another person’s garden.

  4. a¡¤dopt
    tr.v. a¡¤dopt¡¤ed, a¡¤dopt¡¤ing, a¡¤dopts

    1. To take into one’s family through legal means and raise as one’s own child.
      1. To take and follow (a course of action, for example) by choice or assent: adopt a new technique. 2. To take up and make one’s own: adopt a new idea.
    2. To take on or assume: adopted an air of importance.
    3. To vote to accept: adopt a resolution.
    4. To choose as standard or required in a course: adopt a new line of English textbooks.

    [Middle English adopten, from Old French adopter, from Latin adoptre : ad-, ad- + optre, to choose.]

    Somehow I don’t think adoptive parents have sole rights to that word.

  5. Nothing like receiving a hostile form letter – “past resistence to change” indeed.

    The adoptive parents do have a valid concern – there is stigma and misunderstanding (after-school specials and movies-of-the-week have taught me that much).

    I do kind of feel for the kids, though, adopted or otherwise, the first time their parent says, “I really love this ice cream. Oh, and I love you too, honey.”

    [Coincidentally – Roger Ebert had an article last week relating some emails he received about the word “midget”.]

  6. Hi John,

    At first, I’m sorry for my poor English, I’ll try to write some words 🙂

    I think “Adopt a Blog” is a good idea, and lots of people thinks it too (ex: Campanilla, another Spanish blogger girl, has her own server at home, and support Adopt a blog). But there is something wrong… I don’t know if I can give some hosting to a Chinese (or other) blog for a long time, I’m trying it,.. but nobody claims for it! I don’t understand very well (I suppose my English is the fault 🙂 )

    Any way, good luck. You have obtained something, let’s see it in the future.

    Saludos, buena suerte, y libertad de expresi¨®n.

  7. Anonymous Says: May 8, 2005 at 8:01 am

    Hi, John –
    Not really into blogging, but came across your web site address again (the first time I tried to get it I couldn’t read it due to dark background and dark colored font and tired old eyes…but then your mother or sister told me that you had changed the format…then I was cleaning out a desk drawer and saw the web address, so here I am…can’t quite figure out what to use to just plain e-mail you. However, if you choose to respond I am simply redwickie@ School is coming to a close once again and I am really looking forward to the summer vacation time. Actually, though, I may start working on the parish’s archives. They need reworking and the pastor is interested in having me do that. Who knows, I may just decide to retire from teaching and do that kind of thing instead. Your life sounds quite interesting and certainly a great deal different from whast I am doing day after day. I hope you are very successful in your career and that you continue to enjoy it. Good luck with the graduate school! Take care- Love, Miss Wickman

  8. Hi John, is the adopablog page available in Chinese currently? Will you translate it? Or I can do the translation…

  9. Da Xiangchang Says: May 9, 2005 at 5:04 am

    Haha, that irate letter was pretty funny, and the Roger Ebert “midget” article was hilarious. Personally, I wonder when did people become so easily offended by everything?!! People are way too thin-skinned. If I were a midget, I wouldn’t mind being called a midget–or adopted, for that matter. You can even call me a Chinaman, I don’t give a crap. Just don’t call me gook. Haha.

    PS: Good luck on your Adopt-A-Blog project.

  10. The synopsis of the Punto Informatico article dramatically refers to China as ‘the land of the Great Wall.’ haha.

    I suppose it’s better than a dying (though very much still alive and used) expression referring to those of Asian descent as ‘con gli occhi a mandorle,’ or ‘with almond-like eyes…’

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