A social media network belonging to a controversial Chinese billionaire with a history of peddling disinformation says he’s hired notorious soldier of fortune Erik Prince to provide security for a sort of anti-communist shadow government.
It’s a claim Prince denies—even as he admits to a brief contact with the man just weeks ago.
A pair of videos posted last month to Guo Wengui’s social media platform GTV asserted that the self-styled refugee had concluded a deal with Prince, a former Navy SEAL turned international mercenary. Under the purported pact, the videos suggested, Prince would provide security for the New Federal State of China, the “government-in-exile” Guo launched last year.
In the first video, posted Aug. 6, two anchors flanked by yellow-starred flags representing the New Federal State attested to a business arrangement between Guo and Prince.
“This afternoon, he reached an agreement, right here, with our Wengui, to work together strategically,” one said, according to translations provided by Mandarin-speaking sources.
The second video, posted to GTV two days after the first, went further.
“We will work together with Erik Prince to build a security system for the New Federal China,” a voiceover says. “We will establish legal arm forces in the countries around the world.”
If true, this would mark a major collaboration between two of the most contentious figures in former President Donald Trump’s political orbit, and a remarkable turn of loyalties from Prince. But Prince insisted in an email to The Daily Beast that he had had only limited interactions with Guo—and no business dealings.
“I spoke to him briefly on a Skype call,” Prince wrote to The Daily Beast. “Have never met him in person, and we had zero discussion then or ever of anything regarding security forces.”
Prince did not answer questions about how the meeting came about, or what he and Guo did discuss. Guo’s representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Even if they do not agree on any alleged business plans, Prince and Guo do share at least one Trumpland connection: former White House strategist and China hawk Steve Bannon.
Guo, a former real-estate developer, is a Mar-a-Lago member who co-founded the New Federal State of China and other nongovernmental organizations with Bannon after the right-wing operative exited the Trump administration. Federal agents arrested Bannon on Guo’s yacht last year when he got busted on embezzlement charges related to another nonprofit dedicated to crowdfunding a wall on the Mexican border.
As part of that wall project, Bannon had teamed up with Prince, the brother of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos; Bannon eventually received a presidential pardon in the case. The Mueller report also alleged Guo and Prince were in contact while Prince held an island meeting with a Kremlin investor just before Trump’s inauguration.
Still, Prince’s denial is bolstered by the fact that he has hardly aped Bannon and Guo’s anti-Chinese Communist Party posture. Indeed, his alleged new pals do not appear to be particularly familiar with his biography.
The pair of anchors in the first GTV video seemed to be under the impression Prince was still working for Blackwater, the firm he founded in the late 1990s, and which became infamous after its private guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
“Our cooperation with the Blackwater give us absolute power to protect citizens of the New Federal China worldwide, and to protect our G-series products,” one says.
In fact, Prince exited Blackwater—since rebranded as Academi—more than a decade ago. Most recently, he founded Frontier Services Group, a Hong Kong-registered security and logistics company. The Chinese government-controlled investment entity CITIC Group co-owns Frontier, and shares several executives with the company.
Frontier’s main business has been providing support services to China’s Belt and Road investment program, by which the country has bankrolled infrastructure and natural resource exploitation in a gambit to increase its international clout. The arrangement provoked concern that even as he enjoyed a close relationship with the Trump administration, Prince was undermining American interests abroad.
Frontier came under even greater criticism in 2019, when it announced plans to construct a “training center” in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where the regime has subjected members of the Uighur ethnic group to police-state conditions. Earlier this year, the United States declared the campaign a genocide.
Prince denied any company activity in the region, but subsequent disclosures revealed extensive Frontier plans for spending there.
The second GTV clip cryptically asserted that Prince had begun working with Guo because the Chinese government had “tricked” the mercenary, though the nature of the alleged deceit was unclear.
Meanwhile, Frontier’s webpage no longer lists Prince among its top brass, although his personal LinkedIn continues to describe him as the vice chairman of the firm’s board. Prince did not answer a query about his current relationship with the firm.
As for Guo, the self-described dissident’s critics complain that he uses his clout to tar other opponents of the Chinese regime with dubious accusations about their loyalties. In a ruling on a lawsuit that alleged Guo is really a double agent, a federal judge said it was impossible to determine the man’s real allegiances and intentions.
What is certain is that Guo’s GTV has become a major disseminator of misinformation, particularly about U.S politics and the COVID-19 pandemic, and that its fundraising practices are now the subject of a lawsuit and a federal probe.