I have just come back from a two week trip to China. It was organized by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), and a group of us from all across the United States went and met with plastic surgery colleagues from Beijing, Guilin, and Shanghai. We visited military hospitals, public hospitals, private hospitals, as well as surgi-centers.
China is in the midst of a great transformation. To give you a sense of how great the transformation is, Shanghai alone has more skyscrapers than Chicago and Los Angeles combined, none of which existed 30 years ago. Despite our image of China as a communist country with countless people in blue smocks, the China of today is an incredibly vital consumerist society. They love western goods, including icons of social status such as name brands. Traditionally, China is also very image and status conscious. Indeed, the potent social dynamic of “saving face” has to do with preserving appearances. This concern with appearances, combined with the new consumerism, has stimulated a hunger for plastic surgery in China.
Since these social changes in China have been so sudden, and because it takes a long time to train a plastic surgeon, there is an imbalance between the demand for plastic surgery and its availability. Luckily for the Chinese public, the Chinese government severely regulates the practice of Surgery, so only surgeons who have gone thru the appropriate training programs can perform plastic surgery. Unfortunately, their training and collective knowledge is not as advanced as in the United States. Thus their interest in our delegation. While there we met with surgeons working in various settings, and we were impressed with their professionalism and dedication. In the Chinese military and plastic surgery hospitals we encountered a lot of interest in burn wound care. In the private clinics we were surprised to see that a lot of reconstructive surgery was also being done.
In regards to elective cosmetic surgery, we learned about the most common cosmetic surgeries being performed on the Chinese population. I’ll talk about that in my next post.