The BBC reported on July 13 that despite the dangers, cosmetic surgery is booming in China. Like many of her peers, 23-year-old Ru Xin looks for the latest news about cosmetic surgery on social media every day. She plans to get double eyelids. The Guangzhou girl often logs on to a medical beauty app – one of China’s many social networking platforms focused on cosmetic surgery. Since its launch in 2013, the app’s user base has surged from 1 million to 36 million. Chinese attitudes toward cosmetic surgery have changed, and today the number of procedures done in China is second only to the United States. A Deloitte report shows that China’s medical aesthetics market increased to three times the size of four years ago to 177 billion yuan in 2019, growing 28.7% annually, much faster than the 8.2% global growth rate. If this trend continues, China will become the world’s largest cosmetic surgery market around 2025.
Plastic surgery was once considered a shameful topic in China, but today China’s Generation Z is not shying away from it. Ruxin, who works in fashion retail, says her friends “openly talk about getting plastic surgery” and “even if people don’t talk about what they’ve had done, they won’t deny it if you ask them about it.
This boom in cosmetic surgery also has its drawbacks. In 2019, the number of unlicensed cosmetic surgery clinics in China reportedly exceeded 60,000. Those “black market clinics” cause about 40,000 medical incidents every year. Last month, China’s National Health Commission announced a special rectification effort to combat illegal medical cosmetic services in collaboration with several agencies.
So why risk cosmetic surgery? Experts say many Chinese people value their appearance. A good image makes a person more popular, not only for marriage, but also for workplace jobs. Today, with the Internet (in China) creating a plethora of new job opportunities – all of which depend heavily on one’s appearance. People are paying more attention to their face, more than ever before. The Director of a medical beauty app said that “to a certain extent, beauty [in China] can lead to more job opportunities today, such as earning money through online live streaming and producing video content”.