In 2018, one of the largest donors to Rep. Brad Sherman’s campaign was a bank director who had spent large sums of money to build political influence among American politicians — and who led a US-registered non-for-profit that „signed a MOU of friendly cooperation“ with a Chinese state entity alleged by the US State Department to „malignly“ influence local and state authorities — a branch of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and part of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) responsible for „co-opting and neutralizing threats to the party’s rule and spreading its influence and propaganda overseas,“ as alleged by the State Department. His name: Simon Pang of the Royal Business Bank.

The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries („CPAFFC“) draws its leadership from the Chinese political elite — including former ambassadors and the children of important Party leaders. According to Ann Marie Brady, an expert on the topic, it has a main goal of 洋为中用, or „making the foreign serve China“. It is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China („MoFA“) – its last two chairs have been former ambassadors and it has „oversight and management by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and staffing by foreign-affairs cadres“.

MoFA is the first-ranked executive department of the State Council that governs China, roughly an equivalent to the US State Department. Under Xi’s rule, the United Front, an effort to cultivate foreign communities and elites for Chinese state interests, has grown in scope and importance and has been described as „China’s magic weapon“. The CPAFFC is described as the „public face“ of the United Front Work Department by senior figures at the Heritage Foundation and Asia Society, and it is alleged that it is the main force behind „united front work“ designed to exert Chinese state objectives through the use of influence abroad. Its aim has been described as pushing „the CCP’s political agenda on the subnational level and [to] bypass official diplomatic channels by using foreign „friends of China“.

In Canada, China was alleged to be the main perpetrator of „foreign influence in elections“ in the last two elections. The former opposition leader testified that this probably led to the „loss of up to nine seats“ for his party. The investigation into the matter has now led to a report that alleges that Canadian lawmakers covertly worked with foreign governments, most notably China. In Europe, an aide for a Member of the European Parliament was arrested under suspicion for spying for China, and his boss was placed under investigation for alleged payments from the Chinese state. Perhaps this rising level of assertiveness is why President Biden has warned President Xi not to interfere in the upcoming presidential elections.

Simon Pang meets with President Biden, Photo Credit: https://usa-rc.com/blog/build-your-dream-20230530/

Simon Pang meets with Governor Newsom of California, Photo Credit: Baidu – https://image.baidu.com/search/detail?ct=503316480

Simon Pang meets with Mayor Bass of Los Angeles. Photo credit: https://k.sina.cn/article_6547448743_1864223a702001g3sm.html?from=international

Rep. Sherman has long been an anti-Bitcoin advocate who has alleged that tax laws would not be enforceable because of the lack of transparency around Bitcoin. He draws most of his support from the Securities and Investment, Finance and Real Estate sectors consequently. The Royal Business Bank is no exception to this tendency.

Rep. Brad Sherman met with Simon Pang and Chinese state officials at least once. In a June 1, 2019 Facebook post, he shared that he had met the Consul General and Deputy Consul General to discuss US-China issues with Mr. Simon Pang. By that time, Royal Business Bank had donated $16,600 to his campaign, and would donate $5,700 after.

Simon Pang meets Rep. Brad Sherman along with Chinese diplomatic officials, Photo Credit: Author screenshot

How did Simon Pang, a director at a community bank with an approximately $300 million market cap in the United States, nowhere near even the top 100 banks in the United States by size, become an institution that could sign a memorandum of understanding with a prominent branch of a Chinese United Front work department, be hailed and honored by two chairs of the public face of Chinese influence abroad, be a part of a meeting with Chinese diplomats and American politicians like Rep. Sherman, become Rep. Judy Chu’s +1 to the Obama-Xi 2015 state dinner, be highlighted by Vice President Kamala Harris as a „friend for so many years“ who has stayed „involved in such an extraordinary way“, and meet President Xi Jinping one-to-one to discuss „California’s sole presence“ at President Xi’s „personal project“ — the CIEE Forum to boost imports to China — a 1:1 meeting often coveted but often denied to America’s most powerful corporate leaders?

Simon Pang with Rep. Judy Chu, U.S. representative for California’s 28th congressional district as her +1 for the 2015 Obama-Xi state dinner. Photo credit: Getty Images – https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/representative-judy-chu-a-democrat-from-california-left-and-news-photo/490149968

Perhaps it has something to do with the volume of donations Simon Pang (冯振发 in Mandarin) is correlated with, along with money from multiple entities and the influence he is able to bring to bear with his high-level relationships with the Chinese political and business elite and his ability to bridge them with high-ranking American politicians. He is president of the US-Sino Friendship Association, a small but mighty organization of three.

In total, Simon Pang and the Royal Business Bank he co-founded has made at least $1.42mn in federal contributions, along with numerous state and local donations since September 27th, 2011. During that time period, East West Bank, a large Chinese-American community bank which has about 333x the market capitalization of Royal Business Bank ($10bn vs ~$300mn) and at least 18x the number of employees on LinkedIn had made (half) the number — $745k — in political contributions as RBB. The Royal Business Bank punches way above its weight class here and much quicker (2.5% of federal contributions from East West Bank were 2k and above, while for RBB that figure was nearing 35%) – and that probably allowed its directors to book meetings and garner influence with American politicians – most notably Simon Pang.

Royal Business Bank is also in the business of expanding rapidly around the United States. For example, it purchased Gateway Bank and other banks like it from Pacific Global Bank in Chicago to First American International Bank in New York City. In its S-1 filing with the SEC, RBB also described how a core group of funders that raised $70 million de novo in the depths of the Great Financial Recession („at that time, this was the largest amount of capital raised by any de novo institution in California“) to form the Royal Business Bank „have also assisted our management team in establishing and growing strong connections with businesses located in China and Asia, as well as at high levels of government in China and Taiwan.

Simon Pang has since retired from Royal Business Bank, but continues to make significant donations as a „Bank Director“ at Bank of the Orient and a „Bank Senior Advisor“ at New Omni Bank.

Helen Hong Yu is the second member and the secretary of the US-Sino Friendship Association. She owns the Torchwood company and has donated under the Royal Business Bank as well. She sometimes donates under the name Helen Yu or Helen Hong Yu, but often uses the same addresses for those donations. Torchwood may be a reference to the Torchwood Institute — a fictional secret organization in the Doctor Who series that nominally protects the human race against aliens but in reality is trying to (secretly) restore the glory of the British Empire.

In 2015, she received $24,000 in salary for her work as the Secretary of the US-Sino Friendship Association, which spent most of the other funds raised that year for arranging a „delegation to China to promote tourism and trade“ and attending the „Annual International Friendship Conference“ — likely a reference to the Chinese state sponsored China International Friendship Cities Conference. In total, through her companies Torchwood Inc. and the Royal Business Bank, she has made at least $100,000 in federal contributions. She put the same address for her Torchwood contributions as she did with her Royal Business Bank contributions — 2801 Sepulveda Blvd, Unit 115, 90505-2865. This address is an upscale residential condo with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The Torchwood corporation is now registered at 2877 Maricopa Street, Torrance, California, 90503 but was incorporated at the 2801 Sepulveda address. This is a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house. The Torchwood company itself is listed as a „trading company“ on a statement of information.

Kevin Xu is the CEO and the owner of Mebo International and Mebo Group. He has been profiled multiple times as the owner of LA Weekly (this same article lists his mother as Lily Li), and a donor of $1 million to San Francisco in order to be able to host the APEC event. He subsequently became the chair of the APEC Host Committee in 2023, the same event that set the stage for President Xi Jinping‚s first visit to the United States since 2017. He is also listed as the CFO of the US-Sino Friendship Association in some of the initial filings for the organization. A social media profile associated with the Mebo International name posted that in July 3rd, 2017, they were waiting on regulatory agencies in the US to launch. The same page is tagged by the USC Alumni Association with Kevin Xu’s personal profile tagged as well.

Posts from the Mebo International Facebook page, Photo credit: Author screenshot

Posts from the Mebo International Facebook page, Photo credit: Author screenshot

Before this post advocating for California secession, MEBO International had made about $620,000 in federal contributions, including a $100,000 donation to the Hillary Victory Fund. There were also three donations made under the „MEBO Group“ name by his mother, Lily Li, between 2016 and 2017 totalling $14,000. The MEBO Group is the name of the company that „was selected by the Ministry of Health of the P.R.C. to be one of the first ten major medical technologies being promoted and popularized across the grass-roots of the country“ and is based in Beijing. During that time period, there were no active California-incorporated „Mebo Group“ companies called exactly that. The GLOBAL MEBO GROUP INC. (2024634) was terminated in 2002. The MEBO GLOBAL GROUP (4238235) was only incorporated in 2019. The MEBO JINDE MEDIA GROUP INC. (3943622) was active around that time, but the donations did not specify Mebo Media. Overall, both either Kevin Xu and his mother Li Li have both incorporated 14 Mebo entities in California — while its main „International“ entity had the ability to make more than half a million dollars in political contributions while „waiting on regulatory authorities“.

The contributions of this small-but-mighty band of the US-Sino Friendship Association are correlated with large sums of donations from others as well. Examples of this include Yeh Shan, who will sometimes donate as a banker at Royal Business Bank or sometimes under multiple telecommunications-related companies such as MY WIRELESS. In one instance, Yeh Shan donated to the Kaine for Virginia fund as „Sales“ for MY WIRELESS at the exact same address as they used for a donation to Sherman for Congress under the „Banker“ title at Royal Business Bank. This address, 81 Royal Saint George Rd, Newport Beach, CA 92660, appears to be a private residence, a 6,600 square foot mansion estimated by Zillow to be worth about $7 million.

It is unclear exactly what roles figures like Yeh Shan and Helen Hong Yu exactly hold at Royal Business Bank, given that they put their role in FEC disclosures as „BANKER“ and „BANK OFFICER“ and seem to also own and direct multiple companies at the same time. A public LinkedIn search found no record of a Helen Hong Yu or Yeh Shan working at Royal Business Bank in current or past roles.

Neither was this level of spending confined to federal political contributions either — with the LA Mayor’s Fund listing Simon Pang as a contributor in their 2023 Annual Report. A quick scan of public state and local political contributions databases shows Simon Pang, Helen Hong Yu and Kevin Xu popping up multiple times. For example, contributions in the hundreds of thousands have been marked in the California contributions database. While their names are sometimes conflated, with others (especially Helen Yu, with a lawyer that works at Yu Leseberg having made $13,100 in contributions), their donations stand out through their employers – the same ones they use for federal contributions, most notably Royal Business Bank.

Screenshots of the California contributions database, photo credit: Author screenshot

Screenshots of the California contributions database, photo credit: Author screenshot

Screenshots of the California contributions database, photo credit: Author screenshot

Kevin Xu has his own website listing his philanthropic initiatives, including support for the Obama Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, the Bay Area Council, Harvard Medical School and the Rhodes Trust. He also serves on multiple roles in media organizations, and has donated to universities such as Harvard Medical School.

Kevin Xu with President Clinton, Photo credit: https://kevinxu.wiki/

In Ann Marie Brady’s report, two prime objectives of President Xi’s CPAFFC are to „Appoint foreigners with access to political power to high profile roles in Chinese companies or Chinese-funded entities in the host country. Use sister city relations to expand China’s economic agenda separate to a given nation’s foreign policy. The CCP front organization, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, is in charge of this activity.“

As an illustrative example of both, Simon Pang has coordinated large tours of Chinese cities for American politicians with the CPAFFC, such as this tour of Chongqing with 17 California politicians including El Segundo Mayor Drew Boyles and Sydney Kamlager-Dove, the current House representative of California’s 37th Congressional District. He also hosted Rep. Jimmy Gomez and at least six California politicians in Jiangsu. In this vein of introducing US mayors to Chinese interests, Simon helped arrange a meeting between the Chinese Faraday billionaire founder and North Las Vegas mayor John Lee.

Simon Pang coordinating a tour of Chongqing’s Stilwell Museum with California lawmakers. General Stilwell was the Allied Chief of Staff in the China Theater during WW2. Photo credit: https://zfwb.cq.gov.cn/zwxx_162/wsyw/201912/t20191224_2695441.html

As the mayor himself put it in an op-ed: „One very important guest at the event was my good friend Simon Pang. When we were scouring the world looking for a business to come to North Las Vegas, Simon told me about Faraday. Nobody in Nevada had heard of Faraday until Simon introduced me to them, and our city and state are forever indebted to him.“ Simon Pang had made at least $5,000 in contributions to Mayor Lee as well. As US intelligence warns on foreign influence from China: „Financial incentives may be used to hook U.S. state and local leaders, given their focus on local economic issues.“ and that China „understands U.S. state and local leaders enjoy a degree of independence from Washington and may seek to use them as proxies to advocate for national U.S. policies Beijing desires.“

A delegation of California lawmakers meets Simon Pang and Kevin Xu at Mebo Group’s office in China. Photo credit: https://www.mebo.com/detail/index/sign/ad8b4d9db5824808d12850cc063776d1.html

He also cultivated a relationship with John Chiang, the former state treasurer of California and a gubernetorial candidate. Simon Pang’s organization helped coordinate a trip with the CPAFFC for John Chiang, who served on a board with Simon in Chijet Motor Company Inc. – perhaps an example of appointing „foreigners with access to political power to high profile roles.“. Chijet „is partnered with FAW Group („FAW“), one of the ‚Big Four‘ auto manufacturers in China“.

Simon Pang in a group shot with John Chiang, 33rd Treasurer of California, and Rep. Ted Lieu, US House of Representatives Member for California’s 36th congressional district and Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Photo Credit: US News Express

These two examples are a small preview of the work that have led to Simon being hailed by previous CPAFFC chair Li Xiaolin, the daughter of one of the most powerful men in China during the 1980s, for his work and designated an „honorary overseas director“ by her successor, Lin Songtian, who was once China’s „brash“ ambassador to South Africa.

Archived Google result detailing CPAFFC President Li Xiaolin praising Simon Pang, Photo credit: Author screenshot

Simon Pang was also honored by then-Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for the People’s Republic of China Zheng Zeguang, considered to be a leading expert on US-China relations and once a leading contender to be China’s ambassador to the United States after multiple postings in the United States. Instead, Zheng Zeguang was appointed the ambassador to the United Kingdom, where he was recently summoned to deal with foreign espionage charges on British soil from Hong Kong intelligence services.

„On July 30, 2018, Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang, on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accepted a RMB 600,000 poverty alleviation donation from Feng Zhenfa, President of the „US-China Friendship Association“, on behalf of the association to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs‘ Poverty Alleviation Office, and presented him with a „Certificate of Honor“ and a letter of thanks.“ Photo and caption credit to: https://news.sina.cn/2018-08-03/detail-ihhehtqh4932666.d.html

What was the ultimate goal of this largess and influence-building in coordination with Chinese state organs and applauded by senior figures in China’s foreign policy apparatus? It’s possible that this was an organic effort on everybody’s part to cultivate good business and political ties — albeit a relatively expensive one — the sort of traditional „relationship-making“ that might be seen in certain banks.

Simon Pang presented a certificate of being an „honorary overseas director“ by then-CPAFFC chair Lin Songtian. Photo credit: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MzIwNTQ0OTYwNg==&mid=2247552559&idx=2&sn=61e11e9f25d804478fcf4eab5c7139ac

Yet this pattern seems to have hit on a vulnerability inherent in the US electoral system and financial system: first, harnessing state and local benefits among somebody who seems incredibly well-connected with Chinese billionaires and who makes good contributions too, then moving to an amount of contributions in federal elections that would be enough to get meetings with the right people. Members of Congress could notice you being one of their largest donors at the approximately $10k mark and take meetings and trips with you to China. All of this proceeded with the regular banking system and a donor institution that was a bank itself, and this activity doesn’t appear to have drawn any notable public scrutiny through more than a decade even though the bank was a publicly traded company.

Simon Pang signing a MOU on behalf of the US-Sino Friendship Association, Photo credit: https://zfwb.cq.gov.cn/zwxx_162/wsyw/201912/t20191224_2695441.html

Simon Pang is from Singapore and has 38 years+ of banking experience — and it is assumably good business to be immensely politically connected in banking. He previously worked as the SVP of United Commercial Bank, which failed after fraud convictions of senior leaders, the hardship of the 2008 Recession, and a failed takeover bid by Minsheng Bank, China’s first private-owned bank.

Perhaps this was indeed a private, unsupervised but coordinated attempt to curry favor and support China and American authorities in order to build his banking practice and protect himself from the experience of United Commercial Bank. No matter the intent, however, significant funds were being spent towards contributions with someone who coordinated closely with an “organization tasked with co-opting sub-national governments“ as alleged by the US government – and some of those funds went to Rep. Sherman.

Simon Pang at a Chinese political gathering, Image credit: Baidu – https://image.baidu.com/search/detail?ct=503316480

It appears that Rep. Brad Sherman was somebody that was in the sights of this network of influence as it looked to expand beyond local and state politics to federal and presidential. In 2018, his third largest donor was Allied Wallet, who were indicted but not ultimately found guilty of using straw donors. His second largest donor in the 2018 electoral cycle was Royal Business Bank.

Simon Pang donating PPE in the United States with the CPAFFC and Consulate General of China. Photo credit: JoinLASD, X – https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQrPNflEuTQVYFmMl6P9r3ALmjMlUEG9tV7Oc3Cn_iDTRri-hNp,

Author screenshot

Commenting on his guided tour to Chongqing, Simon Pang said that politicians were able to see „a different version of China“. One might ask if Rep. Sherman was presented that version – along with the many other local, state, and federal politicians from mayors to Presidents Simon Pang has donated to – such as $10,000 to President Trump’s victory fund, and significant personal contributions to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (at least $39,400) and Secretary Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign (at least $14,700). While he has donated to Republicans, the majority of his donations favor Democratic legislators or state parties. It might be asked for President Biden’s cabinet as well – with Simon posing with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, „the principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on U.S. trade policy.“

Simon Pang in a meeting with USTR Katherine Tai, the member of President Biden’s cabinet responsible for US trade policy. Photo credit: http://www.chinesenewsusa.com/news/show-35395.html

In 2021, Simon Pang was appointed to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders by President Biden. As of today, Simon Pang had personally donated at least $132,500 to fundraising efforts for President Biden, and at least $2,800 in federal contributions and just under $335,000 in California state contributions, spread to many of her political allies, for his „friend for so many years“, Vice President Harris.

Simon Pang meeting with President Obama, Photo credit: https://www.sohu.com/a/359650771_120325604

Simon Pang meeting with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Photo credit: Baidu – https://image.baidu.com/search/detail?ct=503316480

Simon Pang with President Biden. Photo credit: @Jerry_C_Lynn, X

Simon Pang with former Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam after her meeting with President Xi Jinping, Photo credit: @Jerry_C_Lynn, X

Simon Pang sitting next to 77th United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Photo credit: @Jerry_C_Lynn, X

This is a guest post by Roger Huang. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

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