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American society beauty Barbara Howard arrives in Shanghai to visit her Aunt J. B., whom she thinks is very ill. At the docks, Barbara sees rickshaw driver Dmitri Koslov, a half Chinese who was once a Russian officer, beaten by the police at her feet and retrieves his cross pendant. When Barbara realizes J. B. is perfectly healthy and sent for Barbara so she would marry her suitor, Tommy Sherwood, she buys her ticket home by pawning J. B.'s mink coat. Meanwhile, Dmitri visits His Excellency, Lun Sing, an old friend of his recently deceased father. In order to repay a debt owed to Dmitri's father, Lun Sing gets Dmitri a job at a bank. Barbara and Dmitri meet again when he delivers a draft of $50,000 to Tommy from his father in New York, who has advised him to invest it instead of gambling. Barbara, who is immediately struck by the handsome Dmitri, suggests he handle Tommy's investments. After an evening at the stock exchange, Dmitri takes Barbara to see the real Shanghai, and she returns his cross, then burns her ticket home. Soon Dmitri makes a fortune in munitions stock and has built his own investment company, through which he buys controlling stock in the Shanghai Properties Company, which has been stalling the construction of new buildings. Lun Sing warns Dmitri against getting romantically involved with Barbara because he is sure her social set will reject Dmitri once they learn he is half Chinese. Not wanting to jeopardize Barbara's future, Dmitri refuses to see her. The property company, meanwhile, offers Dmitri a good price on his stock, but he declines their bribe, insisting the company begin building immediately. When Dmitri cancels a dinner date with Barbara, she arrives at his house furious and accuses him of making power his goddess. He kisses her through her angry tears and they swear their love. At a costume party, Dmitri announces to his guests that his mother was a Manchurian princess, hoping his ancestry won't matter to Barbara. She is shocked, however, and leaves immediately, along with all of Dmitri's European guests. Despondent, Dmitri leaves the city, missing a decisive vote at the company. Barbara, filled with regret, determinedly tracks Dmitri to his remote hideaway, and they later return to Shanghai together. There, Lun Sing finally tells Dmitri that his mother killed herself to free her husband and child from the prejudice that had left them humiliated and impoverished. Realizing for the first time that his parents' love could not conquer bigotry, Dmitri says good-bye to Barbara. She says she will always love him, and they look forward to a day when races can inter-marry without persecution.