The gender gap among children born on the mainland has widened to become a 'critical national issue', says All-China Women's Federation chairwoman Gu Xiulian, who has urged authorities to adapt their family planning policies to counter the trend. Ms Gu, also a vice-chairwoman of the National People's Congress, delivered the damning assessment yesterday in her speech at Beijing's Foreign Affairs University. 'During the years since China embraced the one-child policy as a principal national policy, we have only paid attention to ways to dispense with the second child, but we ignored who was given up,' Ms Gu said. 'Now state leaders have realised the critical nature of the situation and are making new policies to curb the imbalance.' Since the mid-1980s, the gender ratio among mainland newborns has exceeded norms set by the United Nations. The UN maintains that under natural conditions, for every 100 girls born, there should be 103 to 107 boys. But on the mainland, the 2000 national census found there were 116.9 newborn boys for every 100 girls. The imbalance is greatest in rural areas, where there were 119.3 newborn boys for every 100 girls in 2000, compared with 113.2 in urban centres. According to the census report, parents who had sought approval for the birth of second and third children were more likely to opt for selective abortions to ensure the offspring was male. The central government has launched a campaign to promote the message that 'girls are as good as boys'.