An American orphan in China is taken aboard a ship by a wealthy playboy and charms him into getting married in order to adopt her.
At Sanchow people flee bandits, but a missionary couple stays. Sun Lo (Philip Ahn) protects the orphan Barbara, who is also called Ching-Ching (Shirley Temple) by sending her to his brother. At Shanghai Ching-Ching and her dog look for food. She translates for Tommy Randall (Robert Young), who takes her to lunch. Ching-Ching runs after her dog and then gets in the rumble seat during a rain. The car is put on the ship. Men look for the stowaway; Ching-Ching escapes but is found by Susan Parker (Alice Faye). Ching-Ching is taken to Tommy. He and his valet Atkins (Arthur Treacher) put Ching-Ching to bed, and she sings "Good Night, My Love." Susan says good-night too, and Tommy goes on deck with her. Susan tells Tommy she is engaged and calls Tommy a playboy. They dance, and Susan sings "Good Night, My Love." Mrs. Hope (Helen Westley) sees Tommy kiss Susan and wires her son Richard Hope (Allan Lane), who arrives at Hong Kong.
Tommy buys a jade bracelet for Susan, but she declines it. Tommy takes Ching-Ching and Susan to a show, and Ching-Ching sings "You Gotta S-M-I-L-E," imitating Jolson and Canter. Richard and his mother find Tommy carrying Susan across the mud, and Susan goes with her fiancé Richard. Tommy walks off with the wrong child and is put in jail with Ching-Ching. The captain (Robert Greig) gets them out. Richard tells Susan about his Bangkok house for her and his mother. Ching-Ching gives Susan the bracelet from Tommy, and Susan gives it back to Tommy. The captain plans to leave Ching-Ching at Singapore. Tommy wants to adopt her, but the captain says he is not married. Tommy asks Susan to adopt Ching-Ching until he can get married; but Richard and his mother oppose this, causing Susan to break her engagement. Tommy tells Ching-Ching he'll come back for her. Tommy asks Susan to marry him just to adopt Ching-Ching, and they are wed. Tommy tells Susan that they can divorce in Reno, and they say good-night. Since Susan says she doesn't love Tommy, Richard offers her her way. Alone, Susan sings "One Never Knows, Does One," and Tommy hears her.
At Reno Tommy tells Susan he stopped drinking; but she says that Richard is waiting to marry her. Judge Booth (J. Edward Bromberg) calls Ching-Ching to testify, and she says they have no grounds. Susan admits that she loves Tommy, and the judge denies the divorce. In the final scene Ching-Ching sings "That's What I Want for Christmas" to Tommy and Susan.
Highlighted with Chinese proverbs, an innocent and wise child helps a playboy to reform and the woman he loves to realize she loves him.