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Beauty pageants gaining popularity in China
( 2003-08-16 17:08) (Xinhua)

Beauty pageants are becoming increasingly popular in modern China, as young women and private enterprise seek to benefit from a more tolerant attitude towards events that were regarded as decadent years ago.

Beauty contests were considered "western culture nonsense" by some people in China a decade ago and participants were sometimes accused of "lacking self-respect".

A newspaper once carried a report on Beijing University female undergraduates who declined invitations to participate in a beauty pageant. The report won wide acclaim.

Today, Chinese people have become more tolerant of and open to beauty pageant events.

"Showing your beauty and slim figure in public is the freedom and right of women. It has nothing to do with moral standards," said Li Fangran, a female clerk at Beijing Agricultural Bank.

For many young Chinese girls, participating in beauty pageants is seen as a springboard to show business and the fashion world. Many Chinese girls cherish such dreams, including some that had received a good education.

Xu Yafei, an 18-year-old girl from central China's Hunan Province who recently enrolled at the prestigious Beijing University, has entered her name in a beauty contest organized by a television station. The event offers a prize of 1 million yuan.

"I believe that while I win in university entrance examinations, I can also win in beauty contests," said Xu.

Wu Xiaoying, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said commercial interests have been propelling beauty contests.

In the first eight months of 2002, nearly 10 beauty contests were held in Guangzhou, capital of south China's booming Guangdong Province. Organizers have benefited from expensive advertisements inserted in live television broadcasts.

It's reported that three high-profile beauty contest events in the world, Miss World, Miss Globe and Miss International, planned to enter the Chinese market lured by its big potential.

But some academics worry about the growing zeal for beauty contests.

"Beauty contests tend to make women ornaments and tools of utilitarian purposes. Participants may even be made a medium of exchange in business and power dealings," said Wu Xiaoying.

Such events may also result in subtle sense of sexual inequality, some experts say.

Some people think otherwise.

"Today's beauty contests have taken into consideration many factors. Besides the exterior appearance of the contestants, the contests must also judge manners and overall quality. This will encourage women to develop themselves in an overall way and win more self-esteem and confidence," said a male official working at a women's organization in Beijing.

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