China owes a huge debt to Deng Xiaoping, the 4' 11" man who played a huge role in forming China into what it is today. Fast forward to the present and he would hardly gain employment as a waiter because of his height. In the modern Chinese society, heightism is evident in professional, relationship and social matters. The culture is not only heirarchial but also discriminating. The introduction of capitalism and western influence has only served to aggrevate the already severe situation. Many companies require height to be indicated in a resume when applying for a job and different jobs are associated with different heights. In the United States, 5 inch height difference results in 9% - 15% increase in pay. On the other hand, in China, a 1 inch height difference results in 4.5 percent more pay. Consequently, a man who is 5 inches shorter than his equally qualified taller counterpart and performs the same job will receive almost half the pay.
See Also: Heightism Is Only Taken Seriously When Women Are The Target
As reported recently by a Foreign Affairs piece, heightism is practiced in all levels of Chinese society, diplomatic positions are generally reserved for those whose height measures up to at least the average height of other global diplomats, this is despite the fact that Chinese people are on average shorter than people from other places in the world.
Late Chairman Xiaoping Wouldn't Get Any Executive Position In Modern China | Source: Wikipedia Commons
In relationship matters, as the society in China moved away from the earlier forms of arranged marriages to dating, short men again found themselves at another disadvantage with women overwhelmingly preferring taller men. The ideal man is described as tall, rich and handsome.
Evidence of the severity of heightism in China is the prominence of devices that are intended to increase height including exercise machines that are purported to stimulate growth by emitting infrared energy as well as leg lengthening procedures. Although banned in 2006, height increasing surgeries are still carried out in back door clinics at great cost and risk. The excruciatingly painful procedure involves breaking leg bones and separating them using embedded screws, the screws are then adjusted three times every day for up to a year to allow new bone to grow in the areas that are fractured. All these to achieve the benefits that come with being taller in a heightist society.
Lawyer Jiang Tao Sued The Chinese Government In 2005 For Practicing Height Discrimination | Source: Short & Male
It is no surprise then that most of the cases on heightism never even make it to court. In the instances where they do, the cases are thrown out in the name of 'jurisdiction'. This raises the question on how a court can consider a matter of discrimination and equality outside of its jurisdiction? In the case involving Jiang Tao and the People's Bank of China, the bank placed an advertisement in the newspaper for a staff position. However, part of the requirements was for male candidates to be over 5' 5" this in a setting where the average height is 5' 6" and for a job that is not affected by height. Though the bank retracted the requirement, the case was thrown out. Similarly, a worker for the Shenzhen State Tax Bureau worked for seven years on contract. However because of her height, she could not get a permanent position doing the same work because of her height! To add salt to injury, when she filed a suit against her employer, the court decided that a state agency's hiring standards are not within the jurisdiction of the court.
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Unlike some other places around the world, heightism is blatant and carried out without masquerades. In Dalian, two security guards who performed the same duties for the same amount of time, were paid different salaries. On inquiry, the guard on a lower salary was informed that he earned less due to a 2 inch height difference.
It is a troubling fact that in China, heightism is for the large part goes without criticism. Where it exists, prejudice and discrimination based on physical attributes elicits condemnation from the global community with calls for equal treatment and opportunities for all. Unfortunately when it comes to heightism in China, this is not the case. The plight of and injustice suffered by short men in China needs to be addressed and justice served.
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