In China's online hostessing world, the men find virtual company and the women can find riches.

Student Xue Yueyue, 21, spends four hours most days chatting online with fans that shower her with virtual roses and other presents, which can total hundreds of dollars.

She is one of more than 10,000 hostesses on the website, a live broadcasting web platform where anyone can record themselves singing, playing piano, dancing or just chatting.

The hostesses are predominantly singers, playing to an audience that is 90% male, and mostly between the ages of 20 and 35. Acting cute is okay. Anything explicitly sexual is not.

Xue's speciality is to sajiao - a very Chinese type of flirting characterised by the woman acting in a cutesy childlike manner and speaking in a whiny voice.

In return, users show their appreciation by sending her virtual gifts, which can be worth as much as thousands of yuan. She explained the relationship between the hostess and the clients.

"It is the internet, which gives people a virtual feeling. We don't know each other, we have made a lot of friends online, but we don't know each other, as time goes on there's this indescribable feeling. They really support you, and their support improves your self-esteem," she said.

A hostess like Xue makes anything between a few thousand to more than 10 thousand yuan (£1,077, $1,600) a month getting users to send virtual gifts. That pales in comparison with the more than a million yuan given to one hostess on the platform – a record so far.

Xue says most of her friends don't know about her work, as in the eyes of many, the sites are still dominated by borderline erotic content. However, following a series of anti-pornography crackdowns over the past few years, many hostess services have cleaned up their acts.

"We have very strict rules for the users, we have very clear rules about what you can do and what you cannot to, especially for the broadcaster users, we'll even tell them how long the skirts have to be, to the centimetre, we are specific to that extent," said Zuo Ming, head of operations at

In total there are about 50 internet companies in China running video chat services. The platforms typically take between 50% and 70% of the money given by users.