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Part 4: China and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Tourism: Not a Player

While the Chinese market for cosmetic plastic surgery may be booming with world records being set almost daily, any contribution from medical travelers visiting from afar remains meager.

As the undisputed 800 pound gorilla of low-cost exports, most industrial output is intended for foreign consumption. Domestic demand in China remains weak for other than non-essential products and services.

china medical tourism

Not so with plastic surgery.

The frenzied rise in China's plastic surgery market has been fueled almost exclusively by increased internal demand associated with improved individual income and living standards, relaxed social restrictions, heavy marketing, and a huge population base that acts starved for anything cosmetic.



After all, purely cosmetic surgery was deemed illegal by the Chinese government until 2001 and has really only taken off in the last five years.

Prices rank among the lowest in Asia Pacific, but prices for Chinese plastic surgery hardly seem a bargain to locals whose average income pales in comparison with that in nearby but more developed countries.

No matter. Mass production, cheap prices, and just-good-enough quality don't fly with most cosmetic surgery tourists.

The main factors driving medical travel are advanced technology and superior outcomes, the very reason why the United States remains the world's top medical tourist destination.

China has no tradition of developing cutting-edge medical services or investing seriously in advanced medical education or even basic provider certification until the last few years.

Despite low prices, China simply cannot compete successfully with the more mature and sophisticated plastic surgery establishments in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and elsewhere.

While quantity does not beget quality, Chinese cosmetic surgeons seem sincere about improving outcomes and not just market share.

For now, however, China is stuck playing catch-up to the rest of East Asian medicine and remains hard pressed to keep even its own wealthier citizens from seeking cosmetic care as medical tourists in neighboring countries.

APSG's Cosmetic Medical Tourism Report
Part 1: Cosmetic Medical Tourism Numbers Misunderstood
Part 2: Main Driver of Cosmetic Medical Tourism: Quality or Cost?
Part 3: Geopolitical Threat to Asian Plastic Surgery Tourism
Part 4: China and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Tourism: Not a Player
Part 5: Cosmetic Surgery Tourism Cost Savings: Never Mind
Part 6: Singapore on Myths of Medical Tourism

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China and cosmetic plastic surgery tourism