Rudolph Wagner on George Washington in China
On Wednesday, April 18, BUCSA welcomed Rudolf Wagner to campus for a talk on “George Washington in China: Image of a New Political Leader.” Wagner is an intellectual historian with research interests ranging from political philosophy in early and medieval China to modern millennial and revolutionary movements and the development of the press, the public sphere, and propaganda in China since the end of the 19th century. In his afternoon lecture at the Castle, he discussed the Chinese appropriation of George Washington to frame the image of a public leader in a post-Imperial China. According to Wagner, early Chinese biographies of George Washington were indirectly discussing the features a new kind of Chinese public leader might have to embody if he was to lead China out of its demise. Here was the promise of a colony of almighty England that had won its independence under Washington’s leadership, and had set up institutions that now made it into a quickly rising power that was respected by all. Candidates for the role of China’s Washington were well aware of such expectations, and tried to adjust their performance on the political stage down to dress, mien, and gait.