During the early 1900s, the Paris of the East became known as a place of vice and indulgence. Around the same time, opium sales along with the gambling and prostitution that went with it, brought in very big profits. Foreigners came into Shanghai due to foreign trade after the Opium Wars. Shanghai was the largest and most prosperous city in the Far East during the 1930s. During the first half the twentieth century, Shanghai was the only port in the world to accept Jews fleeing the Holocaust without an entry visa.
The British, along with the Americans and French, were allowed to live in certain territorial zones without being under the Chinese laws. Amid this glamour and degradation the Communist Party held its first meeting in 1921. The Canidrome in the French Concession became the Rendezvous for Shanghai’s Elite. In the later 1930s and ’40s, the city weathered occupation by the Japanese. The party was over. By 1943, at the height of World War II, most foreigners had fled and the concessions had been ceded to the Japanese, bringing Shanghai’s 100 years as a treaty port to a close. After the end of Shanghai’s occupation by the Japanese, the Nationalist Chinese government was given control of the city. The foreigners no longer had control and by 1949, the Communists declared victory and established the People’s Republic of China, after which the few remaining foreigners left the country.
Closed off from the outside world with which it had become so comfortable, Shanghai businesses taken over one by one by the government. Fashion, music, and romance gave way to uniformity and the stark reality of Communism. After losing ground during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, Deng Xiaopeng’s open door policy allowed for the advancement back to being an international force in business and finance.