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Illustration: Mark Wilson/Staff Getty; Timothy A. Clary/Contributor; Aïda Amer/Axios

The mystery of who's funding Steve Bannon's work has been at least partly solved: Guo Media, a company linked to a controversial Chinese billionaire, has contracted Bannon for at least $1 million for “strategic consulting services,” according to contracts obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The billionaire fugitive — a man named Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok — is embroiled in the U.S.-China conflict. He’s a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party and is reportedly a member at Mar-a-Lago. He’s on China’s most-wanted list for alleged bribery, fraud and money laundering, per the New York Times (he strongly denies the allegations).

  • Guo has been living in New York while he awaits a decision on his U.S. asylum application. And the Chinese government has asked the Trump administration to extradite him.
  • Bannon declined to comment.

The first contract, signed between Bannon and Guo Media, gives Bannon $1 million for one year of consulting services beginning in August 2018.

  • Bannon is specifically contracted to introduce Guo Media to “media personalities,” and advise the company on “industry standards.”
  • Bannon has made China one of his top issues since leaving the White House in the summer of 2017.

The second contract, which was set to begin in August 2019 and is unsigned, offered Bannon $1 million for consulting and set more specific expectations.

  • In addition to the services requested in the first contract, the second would have required Bannon to serve as senior editor for G News — Guo Media’s news arm — and help to elevate G News as a credible source of news on China.

Guo Media is owned by Saraca Media Group, a company incorporated in Delaware, according to the contracts. Per a March 2019 tax filing, the president and director of Saraca was an individual named Han Chunguang.

“[I]t is my understanding that given Mr. Bannon's cross-border financial expertise at Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale, Saraca previously retained him for strategic advisory work regarding media investments, M&A, joint ventures, and cryptocurrencies,” Daniel Podhaskie, a spokesperson for Guo, tells Axios in an email statement.

  • “Mr. Bannon's work in these areas was complete and he is currently not retained. Mr. Guo had no involvement in him being retained or his work for Saraca.”
  • “Mr. Guo has no financial interest in Saraca Media Group or its media platform known as ‘Guo Media.’ Mr. Guo is merely the face of Guo Media and was requested by Saraca to act in this capacity given Mr. Guo’s outspoken criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.”
  • “Mr. Guo agreed to work with Saraca, but insisted that he not be compensated given his prior emphasis that his fight against the CCP is not about money. His entire goal has been to take down the CCP and free his fellow countrymen in China.”
  • As to China's allegations, "the reality is that Mr. Guo is the most wanted person in China because of his outspoken criticism of the Chinese Communist Party; desire to eliminate the CCP’s stranglehold on the Chinese people and bring the rule of law to China," Podhaskie said.

The backstory: Guo and Bannon first met in October 2017, and the two have had numerous meetings since then, the New York Times’ David Barboza reports. Last year, they announced the joint launch of a $100 million “Rule of Law Fund” to investigate the deaths and disappearances of Chinese public figures.

  • Guo told Barboza, “We both naturally despise the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why we’ve become partners.”
  • Bannon also told the Hill he has recorded a radio show out of Guo’s New York apartment.

Although Guo’s spokesperson says the billionaire has no financial stake in Guo Media, Guo has a pervasive presence that dominates the platform.

Read the contracts:

Go deeper

Several states declare emergency over Colonial Pipeline shutdown

A sign warns consumers on the avaliability of gasoline at a RaceTrac gas station in Smyrna, Georgia, on May 11. The average national price of gasoline has risen to $2.985 a gallon, Bloomberg notes. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Reports of fuel shortages across the U.S. emerged on Tuesday as the national average for gasoline prices soared to its highest level since 2014 amid a key fuel pipeline shut down, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Operator Colonial Pipeline aims to have service restored by the week's end following last Friday's ransomware attack that shut down some 5,500 miles of pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. The governors of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency Tuesday due to shortage concerns.

Reports: More than 100 Republicans threaten to form 3rd party over Trump

Former President Trump addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 100 Republicans will sign a letter Thursday threatening to create a third party if the GOP doesn't "break" with former President Trump, Reuters first reported.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Trump's grip on the GOP has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Republican Party's "allegiance to Trump" as he continues to make false claims about his 2020 election loss has "dismayed" the group, according to Reuters.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Dozens dead as Israel and Hamas intensify aerial bombardments

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11. Photo: Mahmud Hams / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

At least 35 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed as fighting between Israel's military and Hamas entered a third day, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 come after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.