Third Session
10th National People's Congress and
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference

'Beauty Economy' Questioned

The unfettered passion for beauty-centered activities in China was largely questioned by lawmakers attending the Third Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday, as it is considered likely to exert negative impacts on women's development.


"Government departments should wait no further to codify caution against rampant Miss contests being held across the country," said Li Yaping, a NPC deputy and chairwoman of central China's Henan Provincial Women's Federation, suggesting that policies be made to better regulate beauty pageants.


Miss contests had remained a taboo in China for treating women like "unliving items" until a string of international beauty contests entered and mushroomed in the country at the end of 2003.


With rainbow-colored bikini and enchanting figures of beautiful women from across the globe dotting the white-sand beach of Sanya, a seaside city in China's southernmost province of Hainan, the final contests of the widely-watched Miss World pageant being held in 2003 and 2004 have largely made the city known as an Asian paradise for holidayers.


It is predicted the number of tourists to the city this year would increase by 20 percent to more than 3.5 million, with the total tourism earnings growing by 26 percent to 3.7 billion yuan (US$446 million), largely attributable to the beauty contests.


The noticeable success of the Miss World pageant in Sanya not only attracted more similar international events to come but also spurred a considerable number of local beauty contests.


Together with the fanfare and marked economic gains of beauty pageants also came a subconscious craving for obtaining overnight fame and fortune by taking advantage of one's physical or gender strengths among the country's young women, particularly those with a sound education background.


In the regional contests of varied beauty pageants, at least half of the contestants are still in full-time education and it is just a "conservative estimate", said Gao Jie, project manager of Beautiful World Lit, a Hong Kong-based company in charge of the Miss World Contest in China, during a previous interview with Xinhua.


While commenting on a popular belief among university girl students in that good academic scores weigh much less than a good looking in securing a bright future, Li Yaping said it should cause great concerns among government departments, educators and parents. "It may nibble away the youngster's adherence to values such as hardworking and honesty," said the expert on protection of women's rights.


Idolizing physical beauty also lead to a surging demand for cosmetic surgery among Chinese women. In recent years, the sector has registered a double-digit growth with the annual production value hitting 168 billion yuan (US$20.5 billion) in 2003, largely attributable to women seeking to upgrade their appearances.


In a proposal submitted by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) to this year's session of CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) National Committee, the country's top advisory body, regulations are urged to prevent government departments from involving in any beauty contests and limit media report on such contests to a "reasonable" level.


According to the widely-heeded ACWF proposal, all unnecessary cosmetic surgery on underage people and on-campus beauty pageants should be banned. A floor age for taking part in beauty contests should be set as soon as possible.


Li Yinhe, a noted sociologist from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said administrative moves in this regard should be cautious and suggested more scope be given to the beauty industry itself to handle similar problems, as saying quoted by the locally-based Beijing Times newspaper.


(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2005)



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