In 1968, Mao Zedong famously declared that 'women hold up half the sky'. More than 40 years later, his call for equal treatment for women and an end to patriarchal domination is more than just an interesting historical footnote. According to one Guangzhou professor, the wheel has turned full circle and Chinese men have become so weak that they now need to be rescued by women. Professor Xia Jimei, head of Sun Yat-Sen University's foreign language centre, told a forum at the university that today's female students are smarter and tougher than their male counterparts. 'Males are the weaker ones who need to be rescued,' she said. 'Today's women university students are more confident and stronger than ever. They are independent and proud. 'In many ways, I think they have exceeded the performance of male students. Take this university for example: there are more girls than boys. Even in the faculties of science and engineering, females still outnumber males. 'These recent generations of men are too weak. They are physically weak and psychologically fragile.' Xia said many male celebrities had feminised images, in keeping with the 'metrosexual' times. She said she could appreciate a woman adopting male characteristics so she could be both beautiful and tough, 'but when it comes to a feminised man, he tends to lose all of his male characteristics'. Xia's outburst was widely reported and sparked a storm of online discussion. It's true that today's women are shaped by the demands of the 21st century to become a combined super mum, super girlfriend/wife/mistress and super-career-woman. But many are struggling to juggle the three roles. It's no easier for the tens of millions of men earning only a couple of thousand yuan a month but are expected to buy a flat before starting a family. An ordinary apartment can cost anywhere from a million to several million yuan, depending on which mainland city you're talking about. And that can land them with a mortgage that can take a lifetime to pay off. Being poor is only one of the many obstacles men face on the mainland, especially for those born under the one-child policy. The natural sex ratio should be about 103 to 107 males per 100 females at birth but on the mainland the gap has widened to 120.56 males per 100 females after three decades of the one-child policy - introduced to curb population growth. Some parents want to make sure that their only child is a boy, to carry on the family name. But now those boys have worryingly low odds of finding a life partner. Do Chinese men approaching their 30s believe they need to be rescued by women? 'It's true that there are more girls entering university than men, but this should not be an absolute measurement standard to indicate a gender's weakness, as university entrance in China is largely based on examinations only,' says a 29-year-old accountant from Shanghai. 'Higher university entrance rates for girls show that girls are more confident about themselves and education is doing them a favour; this is a good thing. 'But let's not forget there are more female teachers in China than men and this factor is also directly contributing to students' declining physical fitness levels compared with 10 years ago.' A 30-year-old physicist at Peking University said most mainland women still cared a lot about how men felt about them. 'Women and men each have their own edge; they can live perfectly harmoniously together,' he said. 'There is no need to compare which gender is stronger or which is weaker. It's meaningless as it takes both men and women to form a society. 'The French comedy master Moliere once said that the greatest desire of women was to be loved and the greatest desire of men was to be understood. After understanding this, men and women need no longer stand in opposition. 'I think that the shocking comment the scholar made at the forum was only a gimmick to try to catch attention. 'Maybe it's okay for her to die old and alone, but she shouldn't be promoting this thought to other girls.' A 27-year-old marketing executive from Guangzhou said he thought today's university students, male or female, were rather fragile compared to their parents' generation. 'Most of them, being the only child in the family, are so materialistic and pampered that they lack social responsibility,' he said. Just because women are becoming stronger does not mean that men are necessarily becoming weaker. Both genders face their own unique challenges in today's fast-changing China. Let's not forget that men hold up half the sky too.