Beijing has pledged to crack down heavily on sex-selective abortions in an effort to balance the nation's skewed sex-ratio at birth.
An eight-month crackdown, involving six ministries including the ministries of health, public security and the National Population and Family Planning Commission, is intended to help achieve 'a significant rebalancing of the sex ratio at birth by 2015'.
'Using ultrasonic techniques to conduct non-medical sex determination and selective sex abortion is the primary reason for the imbalanced sex ratio,' commission director Li Bin told a national conference on the crackdown.
The natural sex ratio should be 103 to 107 boys per 100 girls at birth, but the gap widened on the mainland after the one-child policy was introduced three decades ago to curb population growth.
While rural and ethnic minority people are able to have more, most urban couples are allowed to have only one child.
Parents use every means possible to ensure that their only child is a boy because of the traditional cultural preference for a male heir.
A slew of measures have been taken to address the problem, including improving social security for rural families who have only girls and cracking down on sex-selective abortions.
Doctors found to be practising non-medical-related sex determination or sex-selective abortion will be stripped of their licences or even face criminal charges, and medical institutions found to be involved will also be punished.
The recently released Programme for the Development of Chinese Children 2010-2020 says efforts should be made to 'eliminate discrimination against girls and continue promoting gender equity'.
The sex ratio at birth saw a small correction in the past two years, with 119.45 newborn boys for every 100 newborn girls in 2009, but Li said the sex ratio at birth in China was still very skewed.
Yuan Xin, a demographer at Nankai University, said the eight-month-long crackdown would not prevent selective abortions but could help deter those engaged in the business of determining the sex of a fetus and performing sex-selective abortions.
Yuan said a more effective way to bring the sex ratio at birth back into balance would be to eliminate sexual inequality so that parents would not feel that having a girl would put them at a disadvantage.
'Only when the family feels that the gender of their children makes no difference to the family will they stop selecting their sex,' Yuan said.
The number of male births for every 100 girls born on the mainland last year, up from 116.9 in 2000