An unhappy ending for Cindy Yang’s influence-massaging business

Access Archive

If you’re in a rush today:

  • Cindy Yang (Yáng Lì 杨莅), a Chinese businesswoman in southern Florida who founded sketchy massage parlors and sold Chinese executives access to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, has been fired from the National Committee of Asian American Republicans. Reporting also shows that she has links to the Communist Party’s United Front.

  • China grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in the country, after a second crash involving the aircraft occurred in Ethiopia, just five months after a crash in Indonesia. The reasons for both tragedies remain unclear.

  • Top think tank leaders in the U.S. signed a joint statement calling for the release of Canadian Michael Kovrig, saying his detention in Beijing had a “chilling effect” on U.S.-China relations.

  • Girls’ Day, March 7, was a shameful mess on Chinese campuses this year, just like last year. One radical activist at China University of Political Science and Law took to burning the sexist signs she saw hung up by her male peers.

  • —Lucas Niewenhuis, Associate Editor

    1. The unhappy ending of Cindy Yang’s influence-massaging business

    Cindy Yang, also known as Yáng Lì 杨莅, is a Chinese businesswoman who founded a chain of Asian day spas in southern Florida. Her name became famous in the U.S. just last week, when it was reported by the Miami Herald that one of the spas she founded — though she had “long since sold” this one — is the same one at which New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was busted for soliciting prostitutes. Two side notes:

    • The human trafficking, often involving indebted middle-aged women from eastern Asia, which such seedy businesses depend on, was highlighted in media investigations like this one in the New York Times: Behind illicit massage parlors lie a vast crime network and modern indentured servitude.

    • Yang was not implicated directly in the investigation that shut down 10 spas in southern Florida, but the Herald noted that her spas also have “a reputation for offering sexual services” in the area.

    Apart from sketchy Florida massage parlors, Yang was apparently involved in a possibly even more controversial side business, as revealed by Mother Jones:

    • She sold Chinese executives access to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, in brief.

    • As a major Republican donor — the Herald reported, “Since 2017, she and her close relatives have contributed more than $42,000 to Trump Victory, a political action committee, and more than $16,000 to the president’s campaign” — Yang was afforded unusual access to the Trump administration. The Herald reported that she was invited to at least three Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative events at the White House. The Miami New Times additionally reported that she had snapped selfies with “seemingly…every major member of the Sunshine State GOP except Marco Rubio.”

    • Yang founded a company called GY US Investments LLC in 2017, Mother Jones said.

    • That company “offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family,” according to its now-offline website, including the “opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures” and more. It specifically claimed it had “arranged a number of guests to attend the 2019 New Year’s Eve dinner” at Mar-a-Lago, and had a photo album to prove it (embedded in the Mother Jones article).

    The story became even more controversial when it was then revealed that Yang wasn’t just peddling influence with the Trump administration, but also the Chinese government:

    • Yang is “an officer of two groups with ties to China’s Communist government,” Mother Jones later reported. They are:

      • The Florida branch of the Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (CPPRC)

      • The Miami chapter of the American arm of the Chinese Association of Science and Technology

    The CPPRC in particular has been described by China scholar Anne-Marie Brady as coming “directly under the United Front Work Department of the CCP Central Committee.”

    <div class=”tweet” data-attrs=”{“url”:”″,”full_text”:”@tombschrader Cindy Yang (杨莅) was a deputy director of the Florida Association for the Peaceful Unification of China in June 2016, a relatively new chapter of the Chinese Council for Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification of China. She’s on the left (rep from PRC consulate also in pic) “,”username”:”Stokes2049″,”name”:”Mark Stokes”,”date”:”Sat Mar 09 22:35:15 +0000 2019″,”photos”:[{“img_url”:””,”link_url”:””}],”quoted_tweet”:{},”retweet_count”:353,”like_count”:405,”expanded_url”:{}}”>

    Mark Stokes@Stokes2049

    @tombschrader Cindy Yang (杨莅) was a deputy director of the Florida Association for the Peaceful Unification of China in June 2016, a relatively new chapter of the Chinese Council for Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification of China. She’s on the left (rep from PRC consulate also in pic)

    Following all these reports, the Republican party is distancing itself from Yang. The South China Morning Post reports that “The National Committee of Asian American Republicans fired 45-year-old Yang,” but “did not elaborate when asked about which specific allegations led to her dismissal.” She had been “invited in 2016” to serve as a member on the committee, Mother Jones had reported.

    Three more links:

    —Lucas Niewenhuis

    2. China grounds Boeing plane after multiple crashes

    After a second Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed in just five months, in Ethiopia, China has ordered every Max 8 in the country to temporarily cease operation, the New York Times reports (porous paywall).

    Details are still forthcoming on what caused either crash, in Ethiopia or in Indonesia in late October, but the Times points out the impact this may have on China’s domestic aircraft industry:

    On a commercial level, China’s aviation sector could actually benefit from the tragedies in Indonesia and Ethiopia. A government-owned company in Shanghai has begun doing flight tests of a Chinese-made alternative to the Boeing 737, called the Comac C919

    The C919 has already attracted hundreds of orders from air carriers in China’s state-controlled airline industry, and it is scheduled to deliver the plane starting in 2021. But China has struggled to find overseas buyers beyond securing a handful of orders from tiny airlines in impoverished countries that are heavily dependent on Chinese aid.

    More on the history of Boeing and China: For company and for country: Boeing and US-China relations / MacroPolo.

    —Lucas Niewenhuis

    3. Pacific Reset update: Think tank leaders call for Kovrig’s release

    There are some interesting updates on trade talks below, though the likelihood of a deal is still about as unclear as before these updates. A potentially more important development is reported by the Washington Post:

    In a rare joint statement published Monday, leaders working for top U.S. and international institutions said the arrest of Michael Kovrig of the International Crisis Group on vague allegations of endangering national security is having a “chilling effect” on efforts to improve the bilateral relationship.

    The statement was published on the International Crisis Group’s website: Joint Statement Calling for the Immediate Release of Michael Kovrig.

    Trade and U.S.-China-related links for today:

    —Lucas Niewenhuis

    4. Sexist signs, burning banners, and misogynist trolls: This year’s Girl’s Day was a shameful mess

    Last Thursday, a female student at China University of Political Science and Law lit two on-campus banners on fire. The banners were put up by her male peers at school in celebration of Girl’s Day, an unofficial Chinese holiday that falls on March 7, a day ahead of International Women’s Day. Both banners carried affectionate messages dedicated to no specific person, but instead the whole community of female students at the college. One reads, “I have made a lifelong commitment to you. My love for you can be proved by my heart.” The other one declares, “All acts of investigation doing no good for women are against the rules.”

    The radical act quickly gained traction on the Chinese internet after photos of burning banners went viral.

    Click through to SupChina for more details.

    —Jiayun Feng

    P.S. Girls’ Day last year was also a shameful mess.


    Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at

    —Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


    • Private entrepreneurs
      Chinese Entrepreneur Takes On the System, and Drops Out of Sight / NYT (porous paywall)
      “For months, Zhao Faqi was a folk hero for entrepreneurs in China — an investor who fought the government in court and online, and against the odds, seemed poised to win. He accused officials of stealing his rights to coal-rich land, and ignited a furor by accusing China’s most powerful judge of corruption.
      Now, Mr. Zhao has dropped out of sight — and the authorities want to erase his story.”

    • A very problematic database
      China database lists ‘breedready’ status of 1.8 million women / Guardian
      “It is not clear whether the database is related to a dating app, a government registry, or another organisation or company.”

    • The not ethically horrifying type of gene-editing therapy
      China’s race to test ‘mutation-free’ gene-editing technology on cancer patients / SCMP
      “China could be just over a year away from clinical trials of a new gene-editing therapy with an unprecedented high level of safety, according to a team of Chinese scientists involved in the research programme… The therapy could help cure two-thirds of the more than 50,000 diseases, including some of the deadliest cancers.”
      Unlike the gene-edited babies born last year, to the horror of scientists worldwide, this type of gene editing would not be inheritable. And the technology detailed in this article also avoids other risks from gene editing because, the SCMP states, “The new tool under development in China targets and swaps individual ‘letters’ in the DNA with extreme precision, avoiding cuts to the strands and significantly reducing the risk of unexpected mutations.”

    • Stocks roller coaster
      CX Daily: China’s Stock Markets Take a Nose Dive / Caixin (paywall)
      “Chinese mainland shares logged their biggest drop in five months Friday, underscoring investors’ jitters over poor trade figures and a growing valuation bubble after two stocks were given a sell rating.
      The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plummeted 4.4% to close at 2,969.86, the largest decline since Oct. 11. The smaller Shenzhen Component Index lost 3.25%.”
      China Traders Who Loved Leverage Left Reeling by Friday’s Plunge / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
      “Leveraged wagers on the 20 best-performing stocks in the gauge jumped by an average 89 percent from the start of February through March 5, according to exchange data compiled by Bloomberg. The average increase for the index as a whole was 25 percent.”
      Bigger Than E*Trade: A Chinese Online Broker Soars / WSJ (paywall)
      “One winner [of the fast-paced stock trading] is Shanghai-based East Money Information Co., which, as an investing website and online broker, fits both camps. Its stock has soared 65% this year. That has given it a market capitalization of about $15.3 billion, making it more valuable than some U.S. stalwarts such as E*Trade Financial Corp. or Raymond James Financial Inc.”

    • More on stock trading
      Index Futures Set to Further Pry Open Chinese Markets / WSJ (paywall)
      “Global investors could soon have an easier way to make bets on or against China’s stock market, with Hong Kong’s exchange planning to offer futures trading tied to mainland shares.”
      Investor FOMO Could Lift China Stocks 50%, Goldman Says / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
      “The Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index of A-share stocks ‘would give approximately 50 percent and 15 percent potential upside from current levels if retail optimism were to return to its peak in 2015 and 2018 respectively,’ Goldman strategists led by Kinger Lau wrote.”

    • Chinese investment in Europe
      Chinese FDI in the EU declines in 2018 amid growing caution and new regulatory hurdles / Mercator Institute for China Studies
      “This was due mainly to continuing capital controls and lower liquidity in China’s financial system. Another contributing factor, however, is the growing political and regulatory backlash against Chinese commercial presence in advanced economies, including new and updated investment screening mechanisms in various EU member states.”
      “In 2018, Chinese firms completed FDI transactions worth EUR 17.3 billion, a decline of 40 percent from 2017 levels and over 50 percent from the 2016 peak of EUR 37 billion.”

    • IPOs on the Science and Technology Innovation Board
      Ant Financial reportedly preparing to IPO on Shanghai tech board / TechNode
      “Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Financial is reportedly preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) on China’s new Nasdaq-style equity board, said state-owned media on Monday citing a delegate from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).”
      Biotech Firm Seeks $96.6 Million Listing on New High-Tech Board / Caixin
      “Fudan-Zhangjiang Bio-Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. has become the first Hong Kong-listed company to announce it wants to list on Shanghai’s new high-tech board. The biotech company hopes to raise 650 million yuan ($96.6 million).”

    • MoBike retreats back to China
      China’s MoBike shutting some international operations / AP
      “Chinese bike-sharing startup Mobike is shutting down operations in Australia and South and Southeast Asia, months after rival Ofo began winding down its international division.”

    • When will property taxes finally be implemented?
      China makes ‘steady progress’ on draft property tax law / Reuters
      “Work on a draft property tax in China is ‘steadily advancing’ and legislation will be submitted for review when conditions are right, senior Chinese parliamentary officials said on Saturday. China has considered a property tax for more than a decade, with market speculation of its implementation rearing its head every few years.”

    • Tesla to get batteries from CATL?
      Tesla Is in Talks With Chinese Battery Giant to Power Model 3s Made in China / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
      “Tesla Inc. is in talks about ordering rechargeable batteries from top Chinese producer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. to power Model 3 cars the U.S. electric automaker plans to start assembling at its new factory near Shanghai, people familiar with the matter said.”

    • Economic slowdown
      China spreading ‘positive news’ of strong export rebound in early March after February plunge / SCMP
      “China’s unusual advance release of trade data in early March was a bid to spread ‘positive news that could help shore up confidence’ after exports in February posted the steepest drop in three years, analysts said.
      Exports in the first nine days of March surged 39.9 percent, compared with the same period last year, according to detailed data released over the weekend by the General Administration of Customs.”
      Chinese Banks Scaled Back Lending in February, PBOC Says / WSJ (paywall)
      “Banks issued 885.8 billion yuan ($131.8 billion) worth of new yuan loans in February, down significantly from 3.23 trillion yuan in January and below economists’ expectations, data from the People’s Bank of China showed.”
      China’s GDP growth could be half of reported number, says US economist at prominent Chinese university / SCMP
      The economist in Michael Pettis, a persistent and prominent pessimistic voice on China’s economy.
      China auto sales fall 14 percent in February, mark eighth month of decline / Reuters

    • R&D funding to rise by 10+% again
      China’s funding for science and research to reach 2.5 per cent of GDP in 2019 / SCMP
      “Last year, China spent 1.96 trillion yuan (US$291.58 billion) on research and development, or 2.18 percent of its GDP, an 11.6 percent increase from 2017.”
      “In the same period, the United States went from spending 2.629 percent of GDP on research and development to 2.788 percent.”

    • Science funding also rising, but lots of bureaucracy in the way
      Tied up in red tape, Chinese scientists seek bigger say over research funding / SCMP
      “Despite slowing economic growth, the central government also plans to increase the budget for science and technology by 13.4 percent this year to 354.31 billion yuan (US$52.7 billion) as Beijing tries to challenge the United States in the race for high technology.
      But researchers have been hampered by a funding structure that demands they clearly state the use of their research and submit a detailed plan with a deadline for delivery of results.”

    • Alibaba and logistics
      Alibaba furthers logistics push, invests $693 million for 14.65% of STO Express / TechNode



    • Events in Beijing: Bookworm literary fest
      Our Picks for the Best of the 2019 Beijing Bookworm Litfest / That’s Beijing

    • Attempts to renew confidence in domestic vaccines
      Chinese parents told vaccines ‘generally safe’ after scandals / SCMP
      “An Kang, a National People’s Congress deputy and chairman of Hualan Biological Engineering — which supplied 80 percent of flu vaccines on the mainland last winter — said there was no significant difference between domestic products and overseas brands.”
      On SupChina last week: China’s CDC director: ‘Please don’t lose confidence in Chinese-made vaccines.’

    • Green Book is most popular “best picture” in China since Titanic
      Why China’s loving Green Book so much / Quartz
      “Film critics in the US have argued that the upbeat buddy story fails to capture the true intensity of that history, and, worse, centers a film about anti-black racism and the African-American experience around a white man and his personal journey. Shirley’s own family has criticized the movie.
      In China, however, the controversy hasn’t hurt the film’s reputation. On Taopiaopiao, a movie-ticketing platform under Alibaba Pictures (which is also an investor in the film), Green Book boasts a score of 9.4/10, based on the ratings of more than 220,000 fans. On the social network and movie review platform Douban the movie has a rating of 8.9/10, outperforming 98% of comedies and 97% of dramas. The film has taken in more than $30 million since it opened, making it the highest-earning best-picture winner in China after Titanic. In the past many Oscar best-picture films have been viewed as niche, and haven’t done very well.”

    • Talking about gender discrimination
      TV Drama Highlights Gender Discrimination in Chinese Families / Sixth Tone
      “Many people in China are talking about ‘All Is Well,’ a drama series whose sexist slights and subplots are all too relatable to many female viewers. Since the series’ March 1 premiere, its hashtag has been viewed nearly 1.2 billion times on microblogging platform Weibo.”

    • Sexist advertisements
      Hotel Group Apologizes for Calling Women ‘Too Slutty These Days’ / Sixth Tone
      “Crystal Orange Hotel used sensational wording to attract more clicks for its International Women’s Day advertorial… The now-deleted post was accompanied by a photo of a young woman holding a champagne glass in a bathtub, her legs outstretched in the air. The text underneath read: ‘Modern women are really careless.’”


    2,020 people link arms and drink wine simultaneously in China

    On Sunday, 2,020 members of the Tu ethnic group linked arms and drank wine simultaneously in Haidong, Qinghai Province, setting a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest linking-arms-while-drinking-wine event.


    U.S. campaign against Huawei stalls as Europe becomes main battleground

    The U.S. is arguing that using Huawei equipment would endanger the privacy and liberty of citizens, and the security of critical infrastructure and national security systems. Nobody was making this argument in 2018. What changed? The answer revolves around growing U.S. government concerns over the dominance of Huawei in the networks of allies and “like-minded” democracies in Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, for Europeans, the U.S. needs to make a stronger legal commitment and not just push for a ban. It is easy for the U.S. to argue for a ban, since there is no Huawei equipment in its major networks. Europe requires a different approach.

    Kuora: All the ways women had to rise above oppression in China

    Of the myriad ways in which women were oppressed in China, probably the most glaring and cruelest form of oppression was the practice of foot binding, which was first noted in the Tang Dynasty. Chinese society has for most of recorded history been very unequal — and remains so in many ways today, for all the progress that’s been made.


    Sinica Early Access: Is there really an epidemic of self-censorship among China scholars?

    This week’s Sinica was recorded at UPenn’s Center for Study on Contemporary China. Jeremy and Kaiser speak with three prominent scholars on China: Sheena Greitens, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri, Rory Truex, assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, and Neysun Mahboubi, research scholar at the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania. The group tackles a topic that has long beleaguered China-watching circles: self-censorship. In addition, it focuses on a paper that Sheena and Rory published last summer, Repressive Experiences among China Scholars: New Evidence from Survey Data.

    • Sinica Early Access is an ad-free, full-length preview of this week’s Sinica Podcast, exclusively for SupChina Access members. Listen by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app.

    NüVoices Podcast: Shui, on Beijing’s ‘zine scene

    In the 12th episode of the NüVoices podcast, Alice Xin Liu and Sophie Lu interview Shuilam Wong, who goes by Shui, a comic artist who partnered with Jinna Kaneko to create the Hole in the Wall Collective with Jinna Kaneko. The two high school friends met back up in the city and decided to create their own indie zines (self-published magazines).

    The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 79

    This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: The death of Chu Shijian 褚时健, recent news about China’s ambition to build 5G networks worldwide, the opening of a Communist hero-themed KFC in China, the podcast’s co-producer Tanner Brown on the two big political meetings happening in Beijing, and more.


    A beautified storefront in Urumqi

    Daniel Hinks writes in a photo essay for SupChina: “The beautification project is in full swing in Tianshan District, Urumqi, as an old Uighur man walks past a shop window. Last month, I took a trip to Xinjiang — specifically, Urumqi and Kashgar. Of course, these days, when you think of Xinjiang, it’s not tourism that comes to mind; you think of mass surveillance, police everywhere, political indoctrination, de-extremification, religious oppression, and China’s version of a war on terrorism and separatism. I just wanted to see for myself.”