this is the modern face of china. the wholenation looks to shanghai for a vision of their future - modern, rich, and luxurious. the oriental superpower is undergoing a radicaltransformation. the economic miracle has fundamentally changed the country; china is becoming a consumersociety. and according to chinese sociologists, the beauty craze is its most striking effect. a glance at this chemist leaves no doubt aboutwhat's desirable in modern china: white skin is chic. whitening beauty creams outnumbernon-whitening varieties everywhere you look. with the opening up to capitalism there camea flood of foreign films, books, magazines. this made a huge impact. it changed our ideasand values.
this is why many young women want to looklike western celebrities. 30 years ago this would have been unthinkable. no one couldafford cosmetic surgery. no clinics offered cosmetic surgery for reasons other than accidents. so just what should a woman in china looklike? what now counts as desirable? and why have these ideals of beauty changed? in aformer factory on the outskirts of beijing, photographer zheng chen believes he has someof the answers to these questions. this is a woman from the tang dynasty. underthe emperor, being curvy was considered beautiful. a wide face, long eyebrows, small mouth... until recently, communist ideals valued naturalbeauty. 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 tobe skinny. unusually tall with white skin and an ovalface, model ai xiao qi has more than a hint of a western appearance; and she makes goodmoney on it. at just 19, she is already a well-known model. but she's still not totallyhappy. i want to look even more western. my job demandsthis. especially when you're a model, when you're standing in front of cameras, yourface must have a strong profile. cheng zhen does what he can to help out: computersoftware allows him to pick up where nature
has left off. i make the skin cleaner, then change the faceshape, i make it smaller and longer. this makes people look younger and cuter. then i take care of the eyes and nose, andother details. according to xiao qi, cosmetic surgery isout of the question... at least for the time being. asian models with western faces adorn theshowrooms of european luxury goods stores throughout shanghai. do you like this woman, her mouth, her face?do you think she looks good?
i like her. she's sexy. but why? she's very pretty, she's almost ideal... her face shape is very three-dimensional.especially her cheekbones and pointy chin. what do you think is so beautiful about europeanfacial features? the european face is three-dimensional. theeyes have got a good shape, a high nasal bridge. european women also have full lips. us chinese on the other hand have very flatfaces. it doesn't look good in pictures. that's why many chinese women would prefer to lookmore european.
these four friends initially claim they wouldn'tgo under the knife for the sake of beauty. but they're not being completely honest. do you like my new chin? yes, very pretty. the surgery did you good. another girl from the group has recently hadan 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. small face, big eyes, high nasal bridge, whiteskin. that's pretty.
i would look better with a smaller face. butwomen are never satisfied. a good appearance helps at interviews. butultimately 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 facta serious application process, organised by an official employment agency. beauty promises success to women in china,both personally and professionally. i went to the states. i studied at colombiauniversity in new york...
this wealthy bachelor is in search of a beautifuldream wife, and he's come to the right place. this marriage market has been organised byan 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 thousandsof couples and singles from the across the country. 4 out of 10 women will only marrya man who earns at least 1,000 euro a month. 7 out of 10 insist he must own a flat. ms fei manages the peking office of a nationwidemarriage agency. only the cleverest and prettiest women stand a chance here, and many applicantsare rejected. in contrast, male customers
must meet only one condition: they must haveplenty of money we are very exclusive here. the men who comehere must have an excellent financial base. 10 million yuan is the minimum requirement. once they've signed up, the male clients ofthis exclusive and expensive agency expect to be able to 'order' a dream wife. this customer for example is 55 years oldand wants a woman aged between 27 and 35. he has clear aesthetic expectations. her faceshould be oval and have pretty facial features, such as young skin colour. he wants her tohave voluptuous breasts, and she should be between 5'4 and 5'6.
not many are able fulfil such high expectations.the average height of chinese women is just below 5'2" tall. this is why some opt fordrastic measures. in this operating theatre, one of the mostextreme cosmetic procedures imaginable is being undertaken. this treatment has in factbeen banned in china, but some surgeries will still perform the operation for a five-figurepayment. first, the bones of the leg are sawn in two. then, holes are drilled through thecalves. long metal pins are hammered into the legs, before a brace is attached thatwill stretch the legs as the bones grow back. due to the high risks involved, leg extensionsare 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 areperforming as many as 300 procedures a year. leg extensions may seem drastic, but theyaren't the only cosmetic procedure to come with risks. the victims of the beauty craze are well documentedon some chinese websites. wang bei was an up and coming pop star. shewanted to narrow her jawbone. she died during this routine surgery, aged 24. this is anextreme case, but there are many things that can go wrong in china's beauty clinics. accordingto some estimates, 200,000 faces are being deformed every year. this woman is one of the many victims - evenif it is barely visible today. qi lixia comes
from a village hundreds of kilometers awayfrom beijing. 4 years ago, the tour guide decided to have nose surgery. after the firstsurgery failed, deforming her nose, she needed three further, painful interventions to correctthe botched job. when i complained after the surgery, the doctorstried 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. qilixia spent 3000 euros to make her nose look natural again. that's as much as an annualsalary in china, and she had to pay for it all by herself. any suggestion of compensationwas firmly rebuffed by her surgeons.
lawyer zhang gang represents many cosmeticsurgery victims, and says qi lixia's case is not unusual. many go to private beauty salons and clinicswithout 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 theresult isn't good, it's almost impossible to demand your rights. such warnings generally go unheeded. cosmeticsurgery 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 surgerymarket is now second in size only to the us.
china has bid socialism farewell long ago.china is like an apple - red from the outside only. in china, capitalism is more brutalthan 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 usshe'd be happy to have further operations. many customers want to have a good-lookingtour guide. looking good helps me in my job. before my colleagues were in a better situationcontract-wise. now this has changed. the beauty industry is big business. and as itbecomes more accepted as the norm in china, the message to young girls is clear: it iswhat's on the outside that counts.