The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has publicly stated that China prefers that President Trump lose his reelection bid, favoring the relative predictability of a Biden administration. But that analysis only addresses the interference efforts of Chinese official state organs. There is also a separate effort, aimed at supporting Trump and spreading disinformation about Joe Biden, that is run by a Chinese billionaire who claims to be a dissident but whose actions sometimes align with CCP goals.
Guo Wengui, a close ally of Stephen K. Bannon, has interjected himself and his “whistleblower movement” directly into the middle of the presidential election. His Chinese-language news website, GNews, has been publishing documents and videos purported to be from Hunter Biden’s lost laptop. The substance of the material ranges from allegations of business ties with Chinese executives to lewd, personal content.
Pro-Trump websites are citing GNews to launder the information into English-language press. Banned from Twitter, Guo’s followers have turned to other social media applications to disseminate the material. Guo claims to be an anti-CCP freedom fighter who is working to establish a “New Federal State of China.”
Yet Guo’s ultimate agenda remains murky. Guo’s associate, Dinggang Wang, who has been photographed meeting with Bannon and Rudolph W. Giuliani, recently claimed on YouTube that the alleged Biden material was collected and sent to Washington by the CCP leadership, contradicting the story put forth by Bannon and Giuliani that it came from a Delaware computer repair shop. Also, GNews posts often splice Hunter Biden material with easily provable false information. It’s unclear why GNews is altering the material in this way, but it has the effect of undermining its credibility and muddying the Bannon-Giuliani narrative about its origins.
Guo’s claim to be an anti-CCP dissident is especially undermined by his other main project right now, which is to pay legions of his followers to harass and threaten Chinese American dissidents and human rights activists on U.S. soil, including Pastor Bob Fu, who heads the group ChinaAid, and democracy activists Wu Jianmin and Li Yiping. On YouTube, Guo has accused them of being CCP spies and called on his followers to “eliminate” them. GNews has even tried to link Fu to the Biden scandal, although with rather shaky evidence.
Fu, who is now in hiding with his family under police protection, told me he believes Guo is not an anti-CCP dissident, but rather hunting dissidents on behalf of the CCP. It’s no coincidence, Fu said, that official Chinese propaganda outlets (including the Global Times) are attacking the same Chinese dissidents in the United States as Guo.
“This bears the clear mark of the CCP actively meddling and interfering in the 2020 presidential election,” said Fu. “With such a large-scale disinformation campaign, you don’t really have to think of this as beneficial to either candidate. The information operation is meant to cause confusion and chaos for the American electorate and hurt both sides.”
In this theory, Guo’s efforts allow Beijing to hedge its bets, by hurting Biden’s domestic standing in case he wins. Guo was long aligned with a faction of China’s Ministry of State Security before his main benefactor was purged and Guo left China in 2015.
Guo told me GTV posts are made by individual users outside his editorial control. He also rejected any suggestion he is tied to the CCP: “This is classic CCP disinformation 101 and Bob Fu and his friends seem to have a master’s degree in it.”
Guo’s true motivations are unknowable. Did he switch sides to fight the CCP only to switch back later? Is he aligned with one internal CCP faction battling another? Is he just out for himself? It ultimately doesn’t matter. He is a foreign national spreading malicious political disinformation while harassing U.S. citizens.
The FBI investigation Bannon and Giuliani are calling for is meant to expose Biden’s ties to Chinese influence efforts, but it may end up blowing back on them. The Wall Street Journal reported the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are already investigating Guo’s GTV Media Group, GNews’s parent company, which lists Bannon as a company director.
Bannon and Giuliani may honestly believe Guo is an anti-CCP dissident. But in the end, they are using him for their agenda and he is using them for his still-murky purposes. The result is that Chinese politics and U.S. politics are becoming intertwined in ways we can’t understand but that surely are bad for the health of our democracy.