A missionary’s son from China comes to New York and is elected mayor to reform a corrupt town.
Twenty years after going to China as the son of a missionary, Ezekiel Cobb (Harold Lloyd) leaves to find a wife in America. In New York Cobb takes a cab to a church to see Withers but is turned away. Jake Mayo (George Barbier) helps him find a boardinghouse and is trusted with a treasure. Mayor candidate Withers dies. Cobb meets Petunia Pratt (Una Merkel). Mayo calls Cobb, who learns how to use a telephone; but Cobb has lunch with Tien Wang (Fred Warren) and is late. On radio McGee (Grant Mitchell) asks Cobb to run for mayor. Mayo, McGee, and Spike (Warren Hymer) persuade Cobb it is his duty and assure him he will not win. Cobb talks with Petunia and quotes the poet Li Po. He gets a tux and goes out with Petunia. He says American women act inferior. Cobb admires singer Dolores (Grace Bradley); but her dress falls off, and he dances with her. Drunk Mayor Morgan (Alan Dinehart) hits a newsboy, and Cobb knocks him down. Cobb tells Petunia he is ashamed. Cobb visits Wang, and Mayo tells Cobb he was elected. Petunia tells Cobb the town needs reforming.
Cobb realizes he is a cat’s paw but tells reporters that he questions Mayo’s honesty. Men complain to Mayo that Cobb vetoed their franchises and fired the police commissioner. Wang advises Cobb. Strozzi (Nat Pendleton) tells Cobb to lay off; but Cobb warns him he may behead bandits. Mayo complains that Cobb is busting up the machine. Cobb appoints Mayo police commissioner. Morgan expects a franchise, but Cobb vetoes it. Frantic Dolores takes Cobb away from Petunia and goes in his bedroom. Petunia hears Mayo accuse Cobb of graft. Two men leave Dolores when Cobb comes back in. She says they want her letters and gives them to him. Petunia sees her kiss Cobb, who realizes he loves Petunia and asks her to marry; but she slaps him.
Mayo lets D. A. Neat look in Cobb’s bank box, and they find stocks that Dolores gave him to hold. Cobb tells Petunia he is withdrawing his proposal. Mayo tells Petunia that Cobb was framed. Cobb says he will repudiate the organization. He orders police chief Shigley (J. Farrell MacDonald) to arrest the gangsters and take them to Wang’s cellar. Police raid gamblers and racketeers. Mayo tells Strozzi that Cobb is nuts. Morgan is brought in and sees a large sword that is sharpened. Cobb says he is destroyed but will execute the criminals if they don’t confess. One man is carried by with his head in a pan. Cobb takes Morgan, who is knocked out and made to look decapitated. Cobb picks Strozzi, who confesses that Morgan framed Cobb. Others confess. Cobb asks Petunia to marry, and she tells Mayo they are going to China; but Cobb says this town needs cleaning up.
This satire contrasts the corruption of modern American politics to the savvy of Chinese tradition. Tien Wang means King of Heaven, and his wise advice helps the innocent Cobb get the criminals to confess.