The story of the rise to prominence of Luk, a Shanghai fruit seller who became one of the most powerful men in China in the first half of the 20th Century. Gaining favor with the local Shanghai Police Chief Wong for his courage and know-how, Luk takes a job under Wong. When Wong sends Luk to foil the theft of an opium shipment by General Yuan, Luk, ever the opportunist, mediates an agreement between Wong and Yuan and soon, the French Consulate is "persuaded" to give the opium rights to the now rich threesome. After various conflicts and adventures, his fortunes then pit him on the side of the Kuomintang, who is poised to attack local laborers and student leaders. Realizing he has been used by the Kuomintang Army, Luk inventively creates an economic empire in order to destroy them.