The PRC: Plastic Republic of China

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In August 2008, Wang Ling* was forced by her mother to go under the knife.

"Bigger eyes are more awake and beautiful," Wang's mother told her.

China currently has the highest number of plastic surgeries in Asia, according to a survey conducted by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS). Worldwide, China accounts for 12.7 percent of the total plastic surgery procedures – after the United States and Brazil.

In Beijing, high school seniors and college-aged students dominate the plastic surgery market, representing almost 80 percent.

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Their motivation? To gain a competitive edge in the job hunt.

"If you're pretty, you won't have many obstacles in getting a job," Wang, 20, told ABC News. "I was an ugly duckling, but now I'm a swan."

Wang, who lives in Chongqing province, underwent a double eyelid procedure in August 2008, shortly before starting college. She also got a nose lift.

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During the 30-minute surgery for double eyelids, the plastic surgeon cuts, folds and sews the upper eyelids with a fishhook-like instrument, creating a crease above the eyelids.

"I had plastic surgery myself," Wang's mother, 45, told ABC News. "It made me more confident and I want my daughter to be prettier and more confident as well."

Cosmetic surgery was only introduced in Beijing in 1994, and the market has evolved considerably since then. Beijing's China-Japan Friendship Hospital sees a total of 20 to 30,000 people in their plastic surgery department every year, according to department director Dr. Ma Haihuan. The numbers have been steadily increasing over the past few years.

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"Most of our patients are 20-40 years old," Ma told ABC News. "July and August are the peak months for college-aged students to get plastic surgeries."

The most popular procedures, said Ma, are double eyelids, nose lifts, breast enhancement and other facial adjustments.

Plastic Improves Prospects

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"Many job industries have higher requirements for a person's physical appearance," he said. "Especially the public relations and entertainment fields."

To illustrate the economic benefit of plastic surgery for women, Ma cited a famous Chinese actress as an example.

"In college, she was not that pretty," he said. "She had difficulty finding work as an actress in Beijing, so she had work done. One year later, everyone wanted to give her a job."

Ms. Zhou flew from Sichuan province to Shanghai and spent more than $3,000 on plastic surgery.

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"I work in a department store," she said. "The prettier I am, the more I can sell."

The plastic rush is not limited to China's capital. Even southwest provinces see a large demand for cosmetic surgery.

"We receive between 20-30 patients everyday," a nurse at Chengdu Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery Hospital told ABC News. "Our numbers are increasing. During the summer, there are large numbers of soon-to-be college students lining up for procedures."

Despite paying more than $4,400 for her painful procedure, Wang does not regret her double eyelid surgery. She is even planning another round of cosmetic procedures, which involve considerable facial adjustments.

"I'm addicted to plastic surgery now," Wang told ABC News. "I'm going to shape my cheek and chin. It will alter the entire physical structure of my face."

Addiction is just one of the risks of plastic surgery — especially at a young age.

"Plastic surgery doesn't solely impact a person's physical appearance," Ma said. "It can also have deeper psychological repercussions."

According to Ma, plastic surgery has the same medical risks as any other surgery, such as risk of infection or internal bleeding. However, the bigger problem is a patient's gamble with their appearance.

Perils of Plastics

"Sometimes, the surgery result isn't what the patient expected," Ma said. "That can be difficult to deal with."

Cosmetic surgeries can boost job prospects and self-esteem for women, and some men are now catching onto the trend. A substantial number of men now get chest implants to make themselves seem more muscular, in the hopes of impressing their clients or bosses.

Xie Yun*, a college student in Hong Kong, received a double eyelid surgery. Now, when Xie does presentations or public speeches, he is more confident than before.

"After I got my surgery done, the number of girls chasing after me increased exponentially," Xie told ABC News.

*Names have been changed.

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