Bannon, Guo, Yan: Where a Populist Right Idol Gets His Funding

by | Apr 24, 2023

Bannon, Guo, Yan: Where a Populist Right Idol Gets His Funding

by | Apr 24, 2023

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As we roll into the 2024 political season, you can rest assured the political right will be posturing more and more against China, while rightfully calling for an end to Ukraine aid. This trend was highlighted by a long line of recent Republican congressional and senatorial candidates (Joe Kent, Blake Masters, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, J.D. Vance, Mehmet Oz, etc).

The left side of the political spectrum is hardly better on China, but the focus of this article is not to criticize the left, as most readers are surely aware of the domestic and foreign horrors of the Biden administration. Instead, it’s worth putting a spotlight on the strange compromises of the populist right and some of its most prominent figures, including how top donors might affect commentary and reporting on foreign policy—namely as it relates to China, where media mogul Steve Bannon has repeatedly called to “take down” the “regime.”

Even a casual observer of American politics has likely heard much about China and its dreaded Communist Party (CCP), with U.S. officials regularly citing misdeeds ranging from “organ harvesting,” the “Uyghur genocide,” flooding American streets with deadly fentanyl, and the notion that the Tik-Tok video-sharing app is a surveillance program designed to corrupt America’s youth (some lawmakers seek to ban it outright).

While some of these claims may contain seeds of truth, many of the scare stories surrounding Beijing ring hollow, with hawks often presenting dubious evidence—or none at all.

Steven Bannon, one of the loudest critics of the Chinese Politburo, served as Donald Trump’s White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor in 2017 before resigning from the administration. He has since attracted a large audience with his popular Bannon’s War Room podcast, where he frequently rails against China.

Bankrolling Bannon

Bannon has found a close ally in a gentleman who has gone under a number of aliases: Guo Wengui, Miles Kwok, Guo Haoyun—or, as he is most commonly known, Miles Guo.

Guo is a billionaire in exile from China, who at the height of his career boasted a net worth of $2.6 billion, ranking 74th among China’s richest people in 2014, according to the Hurun Report.

Guo was exiled from China for numerous reasons, and was considered “Highly Destabilizing” by Beijing.

The government in Beijing has levied a series of allegations against Guo, who faces some nineteen major criminal cases, having been accused of “bribing a top Chinese intelligence official, kidnapping, fraud and money laundering,” among other things. 

Guo initially left China in 2014, fearing he would face corruption charges. Though he claims he “didn’t take a penny of investment from the banks,” a legal battle with the Pacific Alliance Asia Opportunity Fund revealed that Guo borrowed some $88 million from the Asia-based company between 2008 and 2011 and never paid it back.

Guo also operated a cryptocurrency scheme under three separate companies in 2020, and was ultimately slapped with a $539 million fine by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission due to a lack of disclosure and “commingling the proceeds from two unregistered securities.”

In addition to these allegedly dodgy business dealings, Guo was also accused of sexual assault by a former personal assistant in 2017, not long after he applied for political asylum in the United States. While Guo denies any wrongdoing, the victim outlined her allegations in an interview with the Associated Press, claiming she was raped several times over a period of two years and that Guo “demanded sex from female employees as a test of their loyalty.” Her identity has not been publicly disclosed.

So what does all this have to do with Steve Bannon?

Guo has come to be known as Bannon’s financier, reportedly paying him at least $1 million for his “strategic consulting services” in 2019, following a separate loan to the right-wing pundit for $150,000.

Guo also publicly pledged to donate $100 million to a Bannon-led charity, the Rule of Law Society, a body created in 2018 to “investigate Chinese corruption,” according to The Washington Post.

Moreover, the yacht on which Bannon was arrested for fraud in 2020 belonged to Mei Guo—Miles Guo’s daughter—although according to a lawsuit filed last year, she never operated the craft and spent very little time on it. When the yacht was dropped off for service at YACHTZOO in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, manager Russel Stockil denied ever speaking to her.

“Ms. Guo appears to be a woman in her twenties, has introduced no evidence that she exercised dominion and control of the Lady May, and provided no confirmation that she came into possession of the Lady May, other than as a ruse to shield the Lady May from being levied upon by her father’s creditors,” the lawsuit said, referring to the yacht.

Some of the people that Guo had allegedly defrauded in his home country were fellow party dissidents, an interesting turn given Guo’s frequent calls to bring an end to Communist rule in China. Weijian Shan, the co-founder of Pacific Alliance Group who remains a vocal critic of Beijing’s approach to COVID to this day, was one of Guo’s former financiers who now accuses him of fraud. 

Bannon and Guo also created the “New Federal State of China,” a self-styled “government in exile” aiming to overthrow the Communist Party. The project spawned the Himalaya Advisory Organization, which seeks to establish a new Chinese constitution mirroring “the democratic and legal systems of the West,” and also designated the CCP as a “terrorist organization.” Its founding declaration, a 26-page document outlining its aims, can be found in full on Guo’s website, Gnews.

Bannon has also flown on jets that are closely tied to Guo, specifically a private Bombardier Global Express which was used to cart him around under the aegis of his non-profit, Citizens of the American Republic, in October 2018. The group raised $4.5 million that year alone as a “social welfare” organization, which is not required to disclose its donors.

Guo has recently filed for bankruptcy, now claiming his net worth is between $50,000 and $100,000—down from $2.6 billion—and that he carries liabilities worth up to $500 million.

Guo’s record of fraud appears to have continued. In March, he was arrested for orchestrating a “fraud conspiracy” worth more than $1 billion, with U.S. authorities seizing $630 million in ill-gotten proceeds—slightly more than the $50,000 claimed to his name just one year prior.

Science for Sale?

So who else is on Guo’s payroll?

Formerly of the University of Hong Kong, Dr. Li Meng Yan is a Chinese virologist who went on a recent media tour on Fox News and other outlets claiming the Chinese government “intentionally released” COVID-19 “all over the world,” with Fox’s Tucker Carlson presenting Yan to viewers as a brave insider blowing the whistle. Her credibility has previously come under question, however.

In 2020, Yan published a scientific paper entitled “Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route,” which asserted COVID-19 was genetically engineered. The paper received heavy criticism upon peer review, with fellow virologists arguing the research “ignored the vast body of published literature” on the subject, according to National Geographic.

Thepaper was funded by none other than the Rule of Law Society, the Bannon organization founded with Guo’s massive $100 million donation in 2018. Though Bannon has since left the group’s board, the Chinese businessman remains listed as its “founder,” “promotor [sic]” and “spokesperson.” 

In a 2019 defamation lawsuit against Guo, the plaintiffs alleged the Rule of Law Society was “created to promote certain for-profit endeavors of [Guo’s] under the guise of advocating for greater human rights and democracy in China,” claiming the operation was primarily a money-making venture and that Guo misled donors about how their funds would be used. These non-profits were each operated directly from Guo’s residence.

Another associate of both Guo and Bannon, China hawk and YouTube host Wang Dinggang, also promoted Yan’s controversial scientific work. 

When Yan fled Hong Kong in April 2020—allegedly in fear of her own safety due to her criticisms of the CCP—it was Guo who bought her first-class ticket to the United States, The New York Times reported. Her political activity against the Chinese government in the states began soon after.

Yan appeared on Fox News for the first time in July 2020. During her 13-minute segment, she claimed Chinese officials had “concealed evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus,” and accused professors at the University of Hong Kong of taking part in the cover-up. She cited no evidence, and was later criticized by her former colleagues in a lengthy statement:

“Dr. Yan Limeng was a postdoctoral fellow at HKU. She has left the University.

While HKU respects freedom of expression, Dr Yan’s past or present opinions and views do not represent those of the University.

HKU notes that the content of the said news report does not accord with the key facts as we understand them. Specifically, Dr Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at HKU during December 2019 and January 2020, her central assertion of the said interview.

We further observe that what she might have emphasized in the reported interview has no scientific basis but resembles hearsay.

HKU does not act on hearsay and we will not further comment on this matter.”

So what does all this mean? 

While there is no definitive proof that Guo intended to defraud other Chinese billionaires and funnel the proceeds to Steve Bannon, he does appear to have grown rich as a real estate mogul in China, acquired additional wealth through loans, and then took off with the funds under heavy suspicion by the Communist government. 

As a fugitive in the United States, Guo has written massive donations toward the loudest advocates for regime change in Beijing. With a clear financial incentive to oust the current rulers of the People’s Republic, Guo has helped to galvanize a wave of Sinophobia and belligerent right-wing commentary regarding China in the United States, even paying to manufacture “scientific” studies in his quest to further discredit the CCP. This effort will be used to empower the new Cold War with Beijing launched in earnest by President Barack Obama and ramped up by his successors, and many unsuspecting viewers and listeners will be lulled into a sense of complacency as 2024 frontrunners—whoever they will be—bring us closer to a hot war.

At the time of writing, Guo has been arrested and his apartment burned down. No one was harmed in the blaze, and the Fire Department of New York and the FBI both declined to comment.

About Kyle Matovcik

Kyle Matovcik is the host of the In Liberty and Health podcast and plays guitar in the Pittsburgh-based band, A Common Crown.

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