I was having a conversation with a woman I know casually, and during a lull in our chat, she mentioned casually that she was thinking of having an operation on her eyes.
“Why, what’s wrong with your eyes?” I asked, concerned that she might be having vision problems.
“I want to make the lids bigger,” she replied.
Eyelids bigger? Into my state of shock, she blithely continued “My eyes will look more like yours then” – meaning more Western.
I advised her not to have an operation, and that she was beautiful enough.  Bletharoplasy ( try saying that word twice in a hurry) is one of the most common plastic surgeries performed in china, along with temple, chin and lips and “nose jobs”. Getting leg bones broken is also popular – along with steel implants and resetting the bones, all in the name of making women slightly taller.
Economic reasons contribute to the multifaceted decision to have cosmetic surgery – some government agencies enforce policies which state women should be over 1.58 metres tall to be employed. ( That would count me out, for one!)
The popularity of having a surgeon alter your face for “cosmetic” reasons has grown over the last decade, giving China the world’s third largest market for plastic surgery – and the largest in Asia.
A couple of years back, anthropologist Wen Hua researched the phenonema and published her results in the book “Buying Beauty, Cosmetic Surgery in China:”
Society, and women’s place in it, has undergone rapid change in China over the last decade. New pressures mix with traditional attitudes, and Hua found that many women know believe ‘cosmetic surgery’ is necessary to get and keep employment. Journalist Johanna Liu quotes a Shenzhen plastic surgery client saying “having cosmetic surgery is just like applying makeup”.
Doctors might perform up to 50 operations a day in big hospitals. 2.4 billion yuan is spent annually in China on cosmetic surgergy and is expected to grow substantially over the next few years. Economic pressures, increasing exposure to western movies and culture, mixed with changing and confusing cultural attitudes to women have created a potent mix.
Whilst private clinics, big business ( Chinese investment has just claimed 33% of a famed Korean cosmetic surgery chain) advertising companies and even state regulations collude to push the business of women feeling they need to reconstruct their bodies just to get work – or love, or to be accepted socially – there are, thankfully, some critics.
Professor Zhou Xun, from Beijing’s Renmin University, has compared the modern obsession with cosmetic surgery to foot binding, and there are moves to regulate the industry more.
apologies to all who see this without paragraph spacing – despite putting extra spacings in the draft it just doesn’t seem to show up in the published post. sorry about that.
Information from the following sources: