This short documentary presents the frightening new Chinese craze for Western-style beauty driving a nationwide boom in dangerous and drastic cosmetic surgery procedures. The video script is included below. 📄 Feel free to double click any words on this page to check their meanings in our dictionary. 📖 If you enjoyed this video and found it useful, share it with your friends. 💁 Thank you for visiting ESL Tube. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook for new video updates. ✌
This is the modern face of China. The whole nation looks to Shanghai for a vision of their future – modern, rich, and luxurious.
The oriental superpower is undergoing a radical transformation. The economic miracle has fundamentally changed the country; China is becoming a consumer society. And according to Chinese sociologists, the beauty craze is its most striking effect.
A glance at this chemist leaves no doubt about what’s desirable in modern China: white skin is chic. Whitening beauty creams outnumber non-whitening varieties everywhere you look.
Zhou Xiaozheng, sociologist: “With the opening up to capitalism there came a flood of foreign films, books, magazines. This made a huge impact. It changed our ideas and values.”
“This is why many young women want to look like Western celebrities. 30 years ago this would have been unthinkable. No one could afford cosmetic surgery. No clinics offered cosmetic surgery for reasons other than accidents.”
So just what should a woman in China look like? What now counts as desirable? And why have these ideals of beauty changed? In a former factory on the outskirts of Beijing, Photographer Zheng Chen believes he has some of the answers to these questions.
Zheng Chen, photographer: “This is a woman from the Tang dynasty. Under the Emperor, being curvy was considered beautiful. A wide face, long eyebrows, small mouth…”
“Until recently, communist ideals valued natural beauty. Women didn’t use make up. The natural, realistic look was ‘in’.”
“Today other things are considered beautiful. Big eyes, small mouth, high nasal bridge, pointy chin and of course, one’s meant to be skinny.”
Unusually tall with white skin and an oval face, model Ai Xiao Qi has more than a hint of a Western appearance; and she makes good money on it. At just 19, she is already a well-known model. But she’s still not totally happy.
Ai Xiao Qi: “I want to look even more Western. My job demands this. Especially when you’re a model, when you’re standing in front of cameras, your face must have a strong profile.”
Cheng Zhen does what he can to help out: computer software allows him to pick up where nature has left off.
Zheng Chen: “I make the skin cleaner, then change the face shape, I make it smaller and longer. This makes people look younger and cuter.”
“Then I take care of the eyes and nose, and other details.”
According to Xiao Qi, cosmetic surgery is out of the question for her, at least for the time being.
Asian models with Western faces adorn the showrooms of European luxury goods stores throughout Shanghai.
Reporter: “Do you like this woman, her mouth, her face? Do you think she looks good?”
Cui Lei: “I like her. She’s sexy.”
Reporter: “But why?”
Cui Lei: “She’s very pretty, she’s almost ideal.”
Liu Xin: “Her face shape is very three-dimensional. Especially her cheekbones and pointy chin.”
Reporter: “What do you think is so beautiful about European facial features?”
Qi Jia: “The European face is three-dimensional. The eyes have got a good shape, a high nasal bridge. European women also have full lips. Us Chinese on the other hand have very flat faces. It doesn’t look good in pictures. That’s why many Chinese women would prefer to look more European.”
These four friends initially claim they wouldn’t go under the knife for the sake of beauty. But they’re not being completely honest.
Wang Yang: “Do you like my new chin?”
Chor: “Yes, very pretty. The surgery did you good.”
Another girl from the group has recently had an eye surgery. She also keeps quiet about it. Somehow, they find it all a little embarrassing.
The girls are typical of a new affluent, young demographic. So they have a good handle on the latest tastes in cosmetic beauty.
Liu Xin: “Small face, big eyes, high nasal bridge, white skin. That’s pretty.”
Qi Jia: “I would look better with a smaller face. But women are never satisfied.”
Wang Yang: “A good appearance helps at interviews. But ultimately your achievements matter most at work.”
But apparently, this isn’t always the case. This recording clearly suggests cosmetic beauty can seriously help your employment prospects.
What looks like a fashion show is in fact a serious application process, organised by an official employment agency.
Beauty promises success to women in China, both personally and professionally.
Rich man: “I went to the States. I studied at Colombia University in New York…”
This wealthy bachelor is in search of a beautiful dream wife, and he’s come to the right place. This marriage market has been organised by an exclusive dating agency, designed for rich men to meet beautiful young women. In China, as in the West, financial concerns often come to the fore when it comes to choosing a partner.
A recent study questioned tens of thousands of couples and singles from the across the country. 4 out of 10 women will only marry a man who earns at least 1,000 euros a month. 7 out of 10 insist he must own a flat.
Ms. Fei manages the Peking office of a nationwide marriage agency. Only the cleverest and prettiest women stand a chance here, and many applicants are rejected. In contrast, male customers must meet only one condition: they must have plenty of money.
Fei Yang, matchmaker: “We are very exclusive here. The men who come here must have an excellent financial base. 10 million yuan is the minimum requirement. Once they’ve signed up, the male clients of this exclusive and expensive agency expect to be able to ‘order’ a dream wife.”
“This customer, for example, is 55 years old and wants a woman aged between 27 and 35. He has clear aesthetic expectations. Her face should be oval and have pretty facial features, such as young skin colour. He wants her to have voluptuous breasts, and she should be between 5 foot 4 and 5 foot 6.”
Not many are able fulfill such high expectations. The average height of Chinese women is just below 5’2″ tall. This is why some opt for drastic measures.
In this operating theatre, one of the most extreme cosmetic procedures imaginable is being undertaken. This treatment has in fact been banned in China, but some surgeries will still perform the operation for a five-figure payment. First, the bones of the leg are sawn in two. Then, holes are drilled through the calves. Long metal pins are hammered into the legs, before a brace is attached that will stretch the legs as the bones grow back.
Due to the high risks involved, leg extensions are illegal in China. The procedure may lead to muscular atrophy, nerve damage and arthritis. Nevertheless the demand for these risky cosmetic treatments remains high – some clinics are performing as many as 300 procedures a year.
Leg extensions may seem drastic, but they aren’t the only cosmetic procedure to come with risks.
The victims of the beauty craze are well documented on some Chinese websites.
Wang Bei was an up and coming pop star. She wanted to narrow her jawbone. She died during this routine surgery, aged 24. This is an extreme case, but there are many things that can go wrong in China’s beauty clinics. According to some estimates, 200,000 faces are being deformed every year.
This woman is one of the many victims – even if it is barely visible today. Qi Lixia comes from a village hundreds of kilometers away from Beijing. 4 years ago, the tour guide decided to have nose surgery. After the first surgery failed, deforming her nose, she needed three further, painful interventions to correct the botched job.
Qi Lixia, surgery victim: “When I complained after the surgery, the doctos tried to re-assure me. They said the nose looked good. But it was completely deformed.”
She refuses to share pictures from that period. Instead, she will only show photos of her face after the first corrective surgery. Qi Lixia spent 3000 euros to make her nose look natural again. That’s as much as an annual salary in China, and she had to pay for it all by herself. Any suggestion of compensation was firmly rebuffed by her surgeons.
Lawyer Zhang Gang represents many cosmetic surgery victims, and says Qi Lixia’s case is not unusual.
Zhang Gang, victim’s lawyer: “Many go to private beauty salons and clinics without a medical license. The relevant documents are missing, there’s no treatment contract, no official accounts. No medical records. Nothing. When something goes wrong, when the result isn’t good, it’s almost impossible to demand your rights.”
Such warnings generally go unheeded. Cosmetic surgery is booming. There’s a 20% increase in the size of the Chinese market each year. With 4 million operations and 3 billion Euros in sales last year, the Chinese cosmetic surgery market is now second in size only to the US.
Zhou Xiaozheng, sociologist: “China has bid socialism farewell long ago. China is like an apple – red from the outside only. In China, capitalism is more brutal than in the West.”
This discussion doesn’t concern Qi Lixia. She’s now happy with her appearance. Her fear and pain seem to be forgotten. She tells us she’d be happy to have further operations.
Qi Lixia, surgery victim: “Many customers want to have a good-looking tour guide. Looking good helps me in my job. Before my colleagues were in a better situation contract-wise. Not anymore.”
The beauty industry is big business. And as it becomes more accepted as the norm in China, the message to young girls is clear: it is what’s on the outside that counts.