This article was written in partnership with the Important Context newsletter.
Operatives representing rightwing Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who was charged in March for orchestrating a vast financial fraud scheme, have been secretly recruiting prominent conservatives—including the head of the New York Young Republicans Club—to write opinion pieces on his behalf in order to bolster his image as a dissident, according to an investigation by Important Context and the OptOut Media Foundation. Many of the pieces were published in high-traffic rightwing outlets.
Once a powerful businessman, Guo has been a prominent critic of the Chinese Communist Party since fleeing his home country in 2014 after being accused of bribery, rape, kidnapping, and other charges. Guo’s vocal advocacy has earned him a devoted following among the Chinese diaspora and made him a favorite of the American right as it postures against the rising eastern power. Guo is perhaps best known as the longtime business partner of Steve Bannon, a rightwing extremist and former top aide to Donald Trump, with whom Guo has launched multiple ventures purportedly aimed at overthrowing the Chinese Communist Party.
Guo’s collaboration with established rightwing figures in the U.S. was aimed at manipulating the media to bolster his credibility. A source with knowledge of the Guo network’s operations, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect their livelihood, outlined to Important Context/OptOut how representatives working on behalf of Guo would recruit the writers to place their names on opinion pieces that spoke glowingly of him and his efforts while criticizing his adversaries.
The writers would take prompts as well as pre-prepared drafts, which they could then edit. The pieces were distributed to various media outlets, including far-right Newsmax, Gateway Pundit, Townhall, The Washington Times, and Headline USA, under the conservative writers’ bylines.
Important Context/OptOut obtained and reviewed documentation showing that writers involved in the arrangement included New York Young Republicans Club President Gavin Wax, Bannon’s War Room co-host Natalie Winters, podcaster Kelly Walker, and former Trump aide and congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt. (None of the four writers, nor any of the outlets—Newsmax, Gateway Pundit, Townhall, The Washington Times, and Headline USA—responded to our requests for comment.)
We saw communications related to placing pieces about Guo in conservative media outlets, as well as two drafts bylined by Wax and Winters that were subsequently published on conservative sites. The source, who had direct knowledge of the arrangement, helped identify published articles they said had originated from the network.
Guo has spent many years building up an image of himself as a dissident, which prosecutors now say was central to his financial fraud. He would, the Justice Department alleges, convince followers to invest in his various business ventures while spending the money on himself and his family. The investigation by Important Context/OptOut provides a glimpse into one way Guo worked to successfully rehabilitate his image, contributing to a shift in public perception of Guo from a fugitive to a Chinese freedom fighter.
‘Complex Conspiracy to Defraud Thousands’
Guo, who is also known by the names Miles Guo, Ho Wan Kwok, and others, was once one of the wealthiest men in China, with dealings in real estate development and finance. In 2014, however, he fled the country amid Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crackdown.
In the years since his self-imposed exile, Guo has cultivated an image as a persecuted dissident, making various allegations against China’s Communist Party, including accusing officials of having illegitimate children. The Chinese government, in turn, has sought his arrest.
But Guo has found staunch allies in the American political right.
Guo and Bannon co-founded multiple groups allegedly aimed at toppling the Chinese Communist Party, including the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation in 2018. Then, in August 2020, the pair launched a group called the New Federal State of China, which they framed as a government in waiting, ready to overthrow the Communist Party and establish a new democratic state. The pair live-streamed the launch from Guo’s yacht in New York’s Hudson River with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
In March of this year, Guo was arrested in his Manhattan apartment and indicted on 12 criminal counts including wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. The charges stemmed from his alleged role in what the federal prosecutor called “a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of over $1 billion dollars.”
Guo also faces a parallel civil case from the Securities and Exchange Commission related to the fraud scheme.
The Justice Department alleges that Guo’s image as a dissident was essential to his fraud. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the mogul used the Rule of Law Foundation and the Rule of Law Society “to amass followers who were aligned with his purported policy objectives in China and who were also inclined to believe Kwok’s statements regarding investment and money-making opportunities.”
The billionaire then solicited investments from his supporters for his various ventures, including a cryptocurrency. While Guo made promises of returns on the investments, the billionaire was pocketing the money, lavishing himself with expensive purchases, including a 50,000 square-foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari, and two $36,000 mattresses, as well as financing for a $37 million luxury yacht.
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The conservative writers engaged by Guo’s network have deep connections to the far right and Bannon.
Through his role at the New York Young Republican Club, Wax has hobnobbed with white nationalists and rightwing politicians. The attendees at the group’s annual gala in December, at which Wax spoke, included Bannon, Donald Trump, Jr., Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), and Peter and Lydia Brimelow of the white nationalist hate group VDARE.
One of the Guo network drafts reviewed by Important Context/OptOut named Wax as the author. In a communique between people working with the pro-Guo network, Newsmax was mentioned as a possible outlet for Wax’s work. Another document listed prompts for stories to be put out by the network. The first item offers a possible headline: “Exposed: DOJ-Employed Attorney Secretly Met with Chinese Ambassador to sell out America.” The prompt goes on to say that the article should be about a meeting between a former Justice Department lawyer and a Chinese diplomat. On February 23, 2023—well after the prompts were distributed—a piece authored by Gavin Wax appeared in Newsmax with the headline, “ DOJ-Employed Attorney Secretly Met with Chinese Ambassador.” The article claimed the Justice Department employee’s contacts were in the service of a Communist Party campaign against Guo: “The aim is to put Guo behind bars so he can no longer effectively agitate against communist totalitarianism.”
The following month, the Wax piece was republished in Gateway Pundit as content sponsored by a mysterious entity called “NewNoah,” which has sponsored multiple articles mentioning Guo in the outlet and in Newsmax.
A second draft reviewed by Important Context/OptOut was bylined by Winters, who normally works as the lead investigative reporter at National Pulse, though there is no evidence the site published content from Guo’s network. A rightwing outfit headed by Raheem Kassam, a longtime Bannon ally, National Pulse bills itself as an independent investigative news outlet. Winters is also a co-host and executive editor of Bannon’s show, War Room. The draft we saw was eventually published in Headline USA, a far-right online media outlet.
Winters was interviewed in March by the New Federal State of China, the group founded by Guo and Bannon. The interview was filmed at the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Coalition, or CPAC. Guo’s group was a partnering sponsor of the event. Winters praised the group for “doing such a wonderful job at kind of interlinking the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses not just to the people of China…but to us here in the United States.”
Winters had been promoted by Guo’s organization before. In January, she published an article in Real America’s Voice taking aim at progressive reporting outfit Mother Jones over a story about Guo’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Guo funded his supporters’ attendance at the “Million MAGA March” after the election and gave money to help finance a lawsuit in Georgia challenging mail-in ballots. Winters accused the reporter of using “the mainstream media’s deceptive and deceitful tactics to smear opponents of the Chinese Communist Party.” Mother Jones was “peddling falsehoods” about Guo and New Federal State of China, Winters said, and engaged in “character assassination.”
Days after publication, New Federal State of China interviewed Winters about her piece. The article was republished on the website IssueWire—along with a media contact for FreedomTalk, the podcast of Kelly Walker, who the network source said was involved in the writing arrangement.
A senior writer for The Epoch Times, Walker was arrested in April 2021 for attempting to zip tie two Tucson school officials because of their COVID-19 isolation rules. In October 2022, he was found guilty of misdemeanor charges related to the incident and sentenced to jail and probation, and ordered to pay restitution.
One of the Guo network prompts, “First Amendment: Our First Line of Defense Against the CCP,” appears to reference an article in The Washington Times by Walker, which has since been taken down. A Google search still turns up a link to the piece, but it is no longer available and is not documented on the Internet Archive.
“Use this article to talk about how the first admentend [sic], freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, is the most critical right in our fight against the CCP,” the Guo network prompt reads. “And our enemies, the CCP and its enablers, absolutely hate it. Talk about how U.S. media is afraid of criticizing the CCP, how Shan weijian’s lawyers sent a letter to The Washington Times after they published Walker’s article…The takeaway should be to reveal to Americans the extent to which our 1st admd. has already been invaded and the way to fight back is to support more media outlets that are courageous enough to stand with the NFSC.”
In December, Walker posted a video on his FreedomTalk Instagram account from New Federal State of China. He has also been the author of posts listed as sponsored content, which paint Guo as a victim of alleged China-linked corruption within the U.S. government. The articles were sponsored by NewNoah and another shadowy entity, “Token Team.”
Last month, for example, NewNoah sponsored a Walker piece for the far-right website Gateway Pundit, claiming the Department of Justice was trying to silence Guo. In March, NewNoah had sponsored a similar post by Walker in Gateway Pundit, suggesting that the billionaire was being treated unfairly by the DOJ. An abbreviated version of the same article later appeared in Newsmax as sponsored content attributed to Token Team. Meanwhile, “Newnoah Consulting Inc.,” was the sponsor of a Feb. 9 Walker post in Newsmax, which similarly portrayed Guo as a persecuted dissident.
“As the highest-profile defector from Communist China, Guo is an invaluable asset of unparalleled strategic importance of U.S. national security,” wrote Walker in the sponsored Newsmax article. “And the CCP has been abusing the American judicial system to silence Mr. Guo through infiltration, bribery, and threats.”
Token Team also sponsored a Newsmax post by another writer, Matt Palumbo—a content manager for The Dan Bongino Show and author with bylines in outlets such as New York Post and Canadian rightwing site The Post Millennial—claiming Guo’s March arrest was really an effort to prevent him from exposing corruption.
Another conservative writer implicated in the Guo writing arrangement is Karoline Leavitt, a former Trump aide who ran an unsuccessful campaign for a New Hampshire congressional seat in 2022.
A review of her work shows that Leavitt has written multiple pieces lauding Guo, including one Townhall column matching a story prompt from Guo’s network. The prompt reads, “Professional Communist Moneyman: How Chinese Billionaires Are Bankrolling the CCP’s Foreign Expansion,” clarifying that “this article should focus on three people: Bruno Wu, Shan Weijian, and Jho Low.”
“These three CCP billionaires, or white gloves, are the primary source of illegitimate funding for the CCP’s unrestricted warfare abroad, including the CCP’s #1 priority goal of removing Miles,” it says.
Leavitt’s article, meanwhile, is titled, “The American Denominator in CCP’s Global Dominance: Communist Moneyman and American Traitors.” The piece names all three men, referring to them as “white gloves.”
Other Leavitt pieces mentioning Guo include a February article published in Headline USA in which she called him the “CCP’s No. 1 enemy,” asserting that the Communist Party “continues to work through back channels in the United States to silence him.” In another piece in March, she called Guo a “political dissident” and “a renowned critic” of the Chinese authorities.
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