Graduates put their best face forward

Cashing in: The LCD screen on a taxi in Xian city displaying an advertisement on cosmetic surgery for high school students. The screen reads, ‘First-year high school students’, followed by a phone number.

ACADEMIC certificates no longer guarantee graduates a good head-start in the workforce. Most Chinese youngsters believe that their future is very much determined by their appearance.

“Undergo cosmetic surgery before seeking a job”, “Earn a living with your face” and “Face value is justice” have become catchphrases among school-leavers in recent years.

“There is nothing wrong with achieving a different look. Nobody would not want to be beautiful,” Internet user Piao commented on a Baidu chat group.

“Studying hard and behaving well are no longer the only core duties of students. They must also learn to maintain a good look to prepare for the working world,” another responder wrote.

There is a trend in China where students rush to change their looks during the long summer and winter holidays.

Industry players are more than happy to cash in and have launched “attractive packages” specially catering for students during these seasons.

Among the popular treatments favoured by students are hyaluronic acid and botox injections. Only about 40% of them opt to go under the knife.

But what is disturbing is that those who seek cosmetic surgery for beautification purposes are getting younger each year.

According to the National Health Report 2016 by, China’s biggest online consultation platform on health subjects, among those who sought its advice on cosmetics-related issues last year, 6% were secondary school students.

“Some eight million Chinese have undergone the knife to change their appearance and about half of them were students,” Chinese Association of Plastics and Aesthetics vice-president Wang Yongan told

About 80% of them were women below 30, who spent on average between 5,000 yuan and 10,000 yuan (RM3,145 and RM6,290) for a new look, he added.

When I was in Xian, an ancient capital in Shaanxi province where Qin Shi Huang – the first Emperor of China – built his empire more than 2,000 years ago, I spotted taxis displaying advertisements on cosmetic surgery for high school students on the LCD screen on top of the vehicles.

Li Jie, a tourist who alighted from one of the taxis, said she did not have the courage to alter her look but would not discourage others from doing so.

“I have read news reports on many failed operations and I’m scared. Furthermore, I’m married and have a steady job,” said the woman in her late 20s, who is helping with her husband’s bakery business in Nanjing.

“But I don’t deny that cosmetic surgery is an investment, especially for those who want to enter the entertainment industry or marry a gao fu shuai (tall, rich and handsome – referring to a man perfect in every way).

“It’d be good if everyone could just have confidence in himself or herself, keep clean and be presentable, but that’s not the reality,” she added.

According to statistics, an average of seven million students graduate from higher educational institutions in China annually.

This year, China will see the passing out of a record high of 7.65 million graduates locally. Plus the 300,000 hai gui, a term referring to those who completed their studies and returned from overseas, there will be nearly eight million fresh faces with high academic qualifications in the labour market soon.

These youngsters will have a tough time competing among themselves as well as against experienced job seekers in the shrinking job market affected by the economy, which show signs of slowing down.

A student who had just completed her treatment, said a beautiful face was part of the strength to enhance her competitiveness during job interviews.

“If two interviewees have the same qualifications, I’m sure the prettier one will be hired and have a good head-start,” she added.

During the intake of students at various drama and film academies each year, photos of celebrity lookalikes are always a hot gossip topic among Internet users.

This has led to the belief that the interviewees have gone under the knife to resemble their idols, mostly big names in the industry such as Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, Hong Kong actor Louis Ku, South Korean Song Hye-kyo and Olympic gold medallist in diving Guo Jingjing.

But the definition of beautiful has changed over time. The latest trend is to look young and natural.

A “perfect face” with double eyelids, high nose bridge, thick lips and sharp jawline are no longer sought after by the youngsters, who prefer just a little touch-up, industry players revealed.

Doctors have reminded the public, especially teenagers, to think twice and consider all the risks and consequences before opting for surgery.

They say good make-up skills could also make one more beautiful.

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Opinion , Beh Yuen Hui , columnist


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