China performs more cosmetic surgery operations than any country in the world other than America and Brazil. Almost 1.3 million licensed procedures were performed in 2010, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. This includes only the procedures performed by licensed plastic surgeons and this number is likely higher due to presence of unlicensed surgeons in China. The market, which barely existed 15 years ago, is now worth some $2.4 billion. China’s growing wealth, and its obsession with celebrity culture, is fueling this growth. Beauty is also deemed an advantage in the competitive white-collar workplace because people searching for jobs often are required to submit a photograph with their application.
At People’s Ninth Hospital in Shanghai, a public hospital that is the city’s busiest for cosmetic surgery, there were 50,000 cosmetic operations in 2011, a 50% increase in five years, according to Qi Zuoliang, deputy director of the plastic-surgery department. Most patients are in their 20s. The three most common procedures are double eyelid surgery, liposuction and nose jobs.
Chinese youth increasingly favor plastic surgery
The lure–and pressure–of having a attractive face and figure has motivated tens of thousands of Chinese youth to go under the knife each year. This young generation is increasingly willing to spend millions of dollars for cosmetic surgery that they hope will bring them, if not fortune and fame, job opportunities and a better love life. According to Phoenix TV, China has become the third biggest market for plastic surgery in the world after the U.S. and Brazil. In 2010, the plastic surgery industry in China was already a 300 billion yuan ($47.7 billion) industry that employed more than 20 million people. The industry has a 40% annual growth and its suppliers boast a staggering 60% annual growth in sales.
The burgeoning celebrity culture in China feeds young Chinese’s curiosity and interest in plastic surgery. News, gossips and speculations about celebrities’ faces have become popular topics online, often accompanied with before-and-after photos for comparison. As the frequency of these celebrity operations increase, more and more youth are opening their views on plastic surgery.
Illegal plastic surgery market
Illegal clinics are becoming a large problem in the Chinese market. As many as 70% of China’s cosmetic procedures take place in unlicensed salons that offer simple procedures such as face-slimming injections. “It’s hard to root out the black sheep without efficient supervision and due punishment,” says Dr Qi, echoing a broader Chinese problem. Some doctors, badly paid in state-run hospitals, moonlight in illegal salons.
In downtown Shanghai one clinic offers eyelid surgery for 6,000 yuan ($950) and face-slimming injections for 1,000 yuan. But it could not produce its clinician’s qualifications. When pressed for detail about the injections it uses, it claimed that the Chinese-made drug had the same effect as Botox but was cheaper.
Picture Source: Plastic surgery in China