Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Chinese Enthusiastic about Body Mods

China goes under the knife
By Fraser Newham

"In China today, cosmetic surgeons can change a face beyond recognition - and the police are going to have to take notice," a highly qualified Shanghai plastic surgeon told Asia Times Online.

Before long, he expects, anyone who wants to significantly alter his or her appearance will first have to register with the police, lest wanted criminals evade capture by gaining a new face through surgery.

In ever-increasing numbers, well-off Chinese are going under the plastic surgeon's knife - although more often for vanity and as an investment in themselves than for criminal evasion. But as this unevenly regulated market expands at breakneck speed, some analysts have suggested that some of the time the real crooks may actually be the guys in the white coats.

For many years, Chinese officialdom forbade cosmetic surgery, seeing it as "bourgeois vanity". Only 20 years ago, plastic surgery expertise was restricted to a small number of doctors specializing in post-accident repair work. Two decades later, this bourgeois vanity now represents one of the fastest growing industries in the country - according to figures released by the government, at present the Chinese spend US$2.4 billion a year on cosmetic surgery, with an estimated 1 million operations performed a year.

Chinese interest in cosmetic surgery echoes attitudes in neighboring East Asian countries. Encouraged by gaudy promotional TV shows such as Beauty Coliseum , the Japanese spend some 2 trillion yen ($18.7 billion) on cosmetic surgery each year, according to ND Lease and Service, a Tokyo-based consulting company. And Seoul is now home to over 2,000 private clinics, with surveys suggesting that at least 50% of Korean women in their twenties have bought some form of plastic surgery - an estimate some call conservative.

Professor Zhou Xun, a sociologist at Beijing's Renmin University, has been an outspoken critic, explicitly likening contemporary plastic surgery with the footbinding of yore - a particularly potent criticism in view of the propaganda value which the Party attaches to its (substantial) success raising the status of women in the Middle Kingdom.

Combine this trend with the Asian fascination with technology and get the first population which will embrace cybernetic body modifications and augmentation.

Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan and Hong Kong News and Business.


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