Beauty pageant win leaves China on top of the world
It has taken five years of strutting and posing and an annual fee believed to be worth l2.8 million, but last night China achieved another of its global ambitions when a 23-year-old from Beijing was crowned Miss World.
Zi Lin Zhang beat 105 contestants to become the first Chinese winner of the competition, and the 57th Miss World.
Her victory vindicated the decision of the Chinese government to lift its ban on beauty contests and pay the organisers of the competition to be allowed to host it for four of the past five years.
Fireworks exploded over Sanya, a beach resort on Hainan Island, off China's south coast, as news of Miss Zhang's win emerged. Until her victory, the atmosphere inside the purpose-built Beauty Crown theatre had been subdued.
Since it was first held in Sanya in 2003, Miss World has become an invaluable publicity vehicle for the Chinese government. With a global television audience of more than two billion, it is one of the most-watched events on the planet. This year contestants helped promote the 2008 Beijing Olympics by singing the official anthem of the Olympic torch relay.
The arrival of Miss World in China has created a craze for beauty pageants after more than 50 years of being banned by the Communist Party as decadent and demeaning to women.
Now, there are contests across China almost monthly, including Miss Artificial Beauty, for women who have had plastic surgery, and competitions for pensioners.