Model Li Yingzhi poses with a BMW ACS7 during the 12th Beijing International Automotive Exhibition on Monday. Photo: Xinhua
Models wearing revealing dresses at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition became the focus of public attention, with many criticizing them for seeking instant fame through behavior that crossed a moral red line.
Despite a total of 1,125 cars on display, many Web users said they enjoyed a "breast show" rather than a car exhibition after pictures featuring nearly topless models circulated online.
"The brand is trying to convey the features of its car - convertible with double airbags," a microblogger joked on Sina Weibo Wednesday, commenting on pictures of Gan Lulu, an explicitly dressed model known for showing off her homemade nude photos.
Gan's mother, who works as her daughter's agent, told the Global Times that Gan was dressing as required by an online portal.
"The public does not have to fuss about this. She is just performing her duty as a professional model, which isn't doing any harm to anybody. Beautiful models are a special view at the show. This is a worldwide trend," she said.
Her claims could not be immediately verified by Gan's employer.
Ahead of Gan's appearance, Li Yingzhi, a model for BMW, became an overnight star thanks to a diamond-studded dress that emphasized the contours of her breasts.
But the parade of beauties obviously failed to cater to all audiences.
"The show has been totally ruined by some models, as people swarm there to see all kinds of women and 'airbags' of different sizes. I miss the exhibitions of the past," said one Weibo user.
Weibo celebrity "Zuoyeben" even suggested that the exhibition be divided into two parts, with cars and models being exhibited in separate halls in the future.
An online poll launched on Sina Weibo showed that 50.5 percent of the participants, amounting to over 6,300 people, went to the exhibition for cars while a similar number said they went there mainly for the models.
Yang Yang, a director of performances at the auto exhibition, told the Global Times that car makers made their demands for models according to the features of their cars.
"Certain German brands require models to dress in a high-end, classical fashion, while Japanese car makers prefer themed uniforms," Yang said, adding that models who dressed boldly were usually told to do so by brands trying to grab the spotlight.
Wang Zi, an agent for models, said excessive exposure of their bodies by some models is not representative of the whole industry, nor can it truly reflect the quality of the cars.
Zhai Ling, a popular car model, told the Chongqing Morning Post during an interview in November 2011 that many people acted inappropriately when asking to take pictures with models and even tried to photograph their exposed parts.
Li Yinhe, a sociologist renowned for her sex studies, told the Global Times that Chinese people's perception of fashion is changing as society becomes increasingly open, and that there is no standard to regulate the degree to which a model can expose herself.
"Take the bikini as an example. It was even banned in many countries when it first came out. What happened at the auto show shows that car makers are mainly targeting male customers. The way male models dress will change accordingly to satisfy demands from female car buyers," Li added.
The phenomenon at the Beijing auto show follows a growing trend in China of people aspiring to become celebrities choosing explicit methods of dress on various public occasions, either willingly or otherwise, in a bid to gain fame in a short time.
Chinese actress Yuan Li caused a stir after donning a dress that exposed her underwear at a film award ceremony on August 28 last year. She was criticized for trying to create a sensation in an inappropriate manner.
In one extreme case, a woman undressed herself during a talent show in Chengdu, Sichuan Province in November 2010, shocking everyone present.
The Chengdu Business Daily commented that those who want to show their bodies in public have the freedom to do so, but they also need to take into consideration China's traditional values, society's tolerance of such behavior and relevant laws.
"People who intend to go nude in public, either to convey certain information or gain publicity, need to make sure their behavior does not cross the line set by law and social convention," the newspaper said.
Liu Linlin contributed to this story