Yesterday’s copy of the Wall Street Journal has a very interesting observation: that few of China’s top political and business leaders these days have white hair:
It is possible that could have something to do with genes, but something else is involved, too. For aging men of influence here, the dye job appears to have become as commonplace as the Mao suit once was.
Though they range in age from 52 to 67, the most senior leaders in the Politburo Standing Committee include nine men with nary a white strand of hair.
President and party chief Hu Jintao, 64, still has black hair. Even his retired predecessor, 81-year-old Jiang Zemin, still turns up at major political events with a shiny black top.
It also takes note of how China stands out like a sore thumb when compared to other countries on attitudes towards gray hair on senior politicians:
Japan’s former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, was famous for his salt-and-pepper locks. Current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sports a gray beard and bushy white eyebrows below his trademark blue turban… In America, dye jobs suggest vanity. George W. Bush has let his hair gray in the White House, as Bill Clinton had done.
This “penchant for black hair”, says the WSJ, extends into China’s business world, citing the example of He Xiangjian, the 65 year old owner of home appliance maker Midea Group, who is worth US$1.7 billion and sports a full head of shiny black hair.
But hey, this is the WSJ, so where’s the business angle? Apparently, some people are laughing their way to the bank:
Driven by the desire for youthfulness, the Chinese are powering hair-dye sales. About $148 million in hair colorants were sold in China in 2006, up 75% since 2001, according to Euromonitor International. L’Oréal Paris and Hong Kong’s Youngrace Cosmetic Group International Ltd. were among the leading providers.
With such a rapidly greying population in the market they serve, hair-dye makers in China will have a lot of reason to smile for.
Photo from An Pu Ruo.