Plastic Surgery in China

Eye surgery is the most popular plastic surgery in China

Plastic Surgery in China is a booming industry; Procedures are especially popular among China’s middle class, which now has more disposable income than ever before

The unbelievable speed in which Chinese society has been changing -- from bicycles to cars, villages to cities, housebound holidays to ski vacations -- now reaches the plastic surgery industry in China, which generated an estimated $2.3 billion U.S in revenue in 2010. Ma Xiaowei, China’s vice health minister, said that in just a decade, cosmetic and plastic surgery has become the fourth most popular way to spend discretionary income in China after houses, cars and travel.

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Watch: Growing Demand for Plastic Surgery in China

What might seem weird to the average Westerner is the type of surgeries that appeal to the Chinese masses: The most sought after operation is for the eyes; The procedure is designed to make the eyes appear larger by adding a crease in the eyelid, forming what is called a double eyelid. Many Chinese people feel that having larger and rounder eyes is more beautiful -- and more Western. The second most popular operation raises the bridge of the nose to make it more prominent — the opposite of the typical nose job in the West. The third most popular procedure is the reshaping of the jaw to make it narrower and longer.

Surprisingly enough, many of the patients are very young. at Evercare clinics, a chain of cosmetic-surgery hospitals in China, two-fifths of patients are in their
20s, said Li Bin, the general manager and one of the founders to the New York Times. The youthful patients include job applicants hoping to enhance their prospects in the work force, teenagers who received cosmetic surgery as a high school graduation present and even middle school students, most of whom want eye jobs, surgeons say.

Despite lack of official figures, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery estimated in 2009 that China ranked third in the number of annual operations, behind the United States and Brazil, with more than two million plastic surgery operations annually. And the number of operations is doubling every year. Mr. Ma, China’s vice health minister, says that China’s regulatory system, by all accounts, has not kept pace with the growing demand for plastic surgery. Out of 11 clinics and hospitals offering cosmetic or plastic surgery that were inspected late last year, he said, fewer than half met national standards. Employees lacked professional credentials; equipment and materials were subpar, and many beauty parlors are flagrant violators, illegally administering Botox injections and performing eyelid surgery.

Mr. Ma defined the situation as a medical “disaster zone,” with many accidents often go unreported or unheard by the public. He mentioned the case of a 24 year old former contestant in the Chinese reality show “Super Girl”, who died after her windpipe filled with blood during an operation to reshape her jaw in Hubei Province.

Despite growing concerns and lack of supervision, the phenomenon of Plastic Surgery in China continues to spread, as many of the middle class in China can now afford to pay the $1500-3000 U.S to change how they look. The only question needed to be asked is: Why would they want to do that?

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About the Author

Lior Paritzky is the Editor in Chief and Manager of Laowaiblog, an internet platform that provides opinion and views about social phenomena in modern China. Look for Lior on Twitter: Liorpari