By C. Michael Forsyth
BEIJING — In rapidly increasing numbers, members of China’s upper class are undergoing plastic surgery to look different from the rest of their countrymen, experts say.
“The new status symbol in China right now is no longer a big American automobile or designer clothes. It’s having a unique face,” confirms Bradford Kinglem, a highly respected professor of Far Eastern Studies.
Although still communist on paper, modern China is an economic powerhouse in which savvy investors can become as rich as any American. Indeed, the disparity in income between the rich and poor is greater than in any other country outside of sub-Sahara Africa, according to researchers.“The days of thousands of people riding on bicycles through the streets of Beijing wearing identical drab uniforms and identical punchbowl haircuts are long over,” says Kinglem. “People want to express their individuality.”
According to health officials, the number of people undergoing cosmetic surgery specifically to “no longer look the same as everyone else” was 34,150 in 2012 – 10 times as many as in the previous year. And if current trends continue, the Asian nation will soon outpace the U.S. in folks going under the knife, a report from the International Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery indicates.
The well-to-do in China have sought out plastic surgery in small numbers for over a decade, but in the past the goal was different.
“A wealthy industrialist would alter his face to look like a popular movie star like Jackie Chan, or his wife might get the Joan Chen. Now successful people don’t want to look like anyone.”
Some officials in the Communist Party of China, which rules the country, disapprove of the show of individuality, preferring the cookie-cutter look of the past.
Grumbled one older party member, “This is not what Red China is supposed to be about. Chairman Mao must be rolling in his grave.”
Copyright C. Michael Forsyth