From Stella Dong’s Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City,
“in 1830, when the port’s population had swollen to three million, an international survey found that Shanghai had surpassed any other metropolis in the proportion of women practicing prostitution.”
At the time, the ratio was one prostitute in 130 people. Many of them were sold into prostitution by their families or by abduction and force. These conditions gave rise to a venereal disease outbreak. In this original vice city, a prostitution and STD epidemic lingered beside rampant opium use,
“Rich men took their Opium while lying on silken cushions , a servant at the ready to fill their gold-encrusted pipes , while clerks and coolies went to squalid opium dens…They were easily identified by the acrid smell of burning opium, which permeated the alleyways.”
A veritable red light district, Foochow Road’s countless dull red lanterns would lure these men into the mind-altering establishments.
For Shanghai in the early 19th century, it was the Opium trade that racked the city’s streets with violence and instability. For Miami, in the late 20th century, it was cocaine. Today, the two port cities progress into the future despite, and some would argue in part because of, their inglorious pasts.