CHANGSHA, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Cosmetic surgery is hot among Chinese students as the summer holiday commences, but the plastic trend is also spurring controversy due to its risks.
The country's "correction and alteration" industry gained attention when the Xijing Cosmetic Surgery Hospital in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, was reported last week to have received more than 400 clients daily since the beginning of July, double the amount of the pre-holiday period. Students account for over 80 percent of the total, according to Sun Feng, a surgeon with the hospital.
Similar trends were reported in Changsha, capital of Hunan, with scores of students expressing the desire to have double eyelid surgery and nose jobs, among other procedures, hoping to get an edge in their future job hunts or to look more confident at university, according to an investigation by Xinhua reporters.
In a race to snare as many student clients as possible, plastic surgery hospitals in China are rolling out advertisements that appeal to students.
Many tout their "reshaping" ads, particularly the "ROK (Republic of Korea)-style" surgeries, with images of ROK pop stars to lure students, according to Xiao Muzhang, a professional surgeon from the plastic surgery department of Changsha-based Xiangya Hospital affiliated with Central South University.
"Such ads have effectively helped prompt a spike in the number of our student clients," Xiao told Xinhua.
HOT HOLIDAY FAD FOR STUDENTS
Summertime in China usually means more free time for high school and college students, and an increasing number of them are taking time out to jump on the surgical enhancement bandwagon.
In Changsha, cosmetic surgery ads can be found on billboards, television, in cinemas and newspapers -- a common tactic by cosmetic agencies to grab a bite of the summer's booming young market.
A cosmetic surgeon in Changsha said that his hospital has started a sales promotion this month allowing clients with student cards to enjoy discounts of up to 6,000 yuan (960 U.S. dollars) for cosmetic surgeries.
Most students come for minor alterations in their physical appearance. Such non-radical operations include double eyelid surgery and nose jobs, according to sources with multiple cosmetic clinics in the city.
A student surnamed Luo, who just took the Gaokao, China's national college admission test, recently had surgery to get "creased" eyelids.
"It's just a minor change, and people should not freak out about it," Luo said.
Similar situations can be found in Beijing, where some students are addressing the problem of low self-confidence in colleges and job interviews with the scalpel.
Wang Qiqi, a junior at Beijing Language and Culture University, is considering having a nose job this summer. The 21-year-old said that she is surrounded by pretty classmates and feels a higher nose will greatly boost her confidence.
According to a consultation staff member with Beijing Lidu Hospital of medical Aesthetics, summer holidays usually mean booming business as lots of students visit the hospital for aesthetic purposes.
Xia Xueluan, a professor with the Department of Sociology at Peking University, sees student spending on cosmetic procedures as a sign of diversifying values in society.
"In job interviews, for instance, the interviewers choose the good-looking applicants, provided all other factors are basically on the same level, causing a wave of cosmetic surgeries," Xia said.
The ROK pop culture boom, which is often associated with cosmetic surgery, has also contributed to the situation, as students tend to imitate what pop stars do in terms of their physical appearances, Xia added.
Peer pressure, coupled with an improper understanding of the pros and cons of plastic surgery, has led to the rising number of students looking for aesthetic improvement in hospitals, the professor said.
"A lot of students equate confidence with good looks and place too much value on physical appearance," Xia said.
BOON OR BANE?
While plastic surgery has been credited with transforming the looks of many students for the better, parents are divided on the issue.
A man in Changsha whose daughter has undergone double eyelid surgery said on condition of anonymity that he is supportive of his daughter's choice because it will help her career development.
"My daughter majors in broadcasting, and good looks will help her secure a better job in the future," he said.
Some parents interviewed by Xinhua said that students should focus on studying, and that cosmetic surgery is risky and a distortion of values.
Amid the growing summer trend, experts have pointed out the risks associated with cosmetic surgery.
Xiao Muzhang said that the low threshold in the cosmetic surgery market has created substandard agencies in the industry that try to siphon money from students, and that the safety of their operations is a big concern.
"Any form of surgery carries some risks, and sometimes could be fatal," Xiao cautioned.
In 2010, health authorities confirmed that Wang Bei, 24, a former contestant on the hit talent show "Super Girl," died on Nov. 15 due to complications from anaesthesia during plastic surgery in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province.
In light of the potential risks, Xia Xueluan said that young students should think carefully instead of blindly following the trend when it comes to surgical operations.
He added that confidence comes from within, and that a sense of low self-esteem will make people feel inferior despite great looks.