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We meet the 'stream queens' of China - the new generation of online stars getting rich by sharing their lives with strangers -

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EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: They're young, narcissistic and making money for doing nothing much at all - except sharing their lives with strangers.

While live streaming apps are popular everywhere, China's social media stars have access to the world's largest audiences. With more than 85 million users, it's big business: more lucrative than the country's feature film industry - and that's raising the ire of government.

China correspondent Bill Birtles reports.

(Footage of Li Dapeng shooting live stream video footage of himself)

LI DAPENG (translation): Hey, bro, you are mighty! You are mighty! Thanks to Baobao for your royal cruise ship!

(CGI hearts issue from his mouth. Cut to montage of social media videos)

BILL BIRTLES, REPORTER: It's the small-screen phenomenon that's rivalling the big-screen box office for money.

Welcome to the world of China's booming live-stream community, where stars broadcast from their bedroom and tap into a fan base of tens of millions.

LI DAPENG (translation): I personally think, if we compare this to film, television and online video, live streaming is a lot more interactive. It's more genuine, so I think it's going to be more popular.

BILL BIRTLES: Li Dapeng is right in the thick of it. By day he sells audio visual control systems out of a warehouse on the outskirts of Beijing. But he also spends several hours staring at a screen and entertaining the tens of thousands who stare back at him.

LI DAPENG (translation): The reason why I like live streaming is there is an old saying in China: "If you have an extra friend, you'll have an extra path. If you have an extra enemy, you'll have an extra mountain."

I live stream because I want to make new friends.

BILL BIRTLES: As we film him, his wife films us. And across China, thousands begin to tune in.

LI DAPENG (translation): A lot of presenters are very talented. In real life, they don't have a chance to show it. There is no platform for them to display themselves. Live streaming provides them a very good opportunity. Not only does it show their talents, but you can also make money. Win-win!

The little virtual gifts can represent how much the fans love the live stream presenters. But I keep telling my fans: sending a gift should be based on an individual's ability to afford it. It's only for entertainment. They shouldn't try and compete with each other.

CAPTIONS: Chinese live streaming apps allow users to earn money directly from fans, through virtual gifts.

The app companies generally pocket 50 to 70 per cent of the money.

In a few hours, Li Dapeng still took in a few thousand dollars.

BILL BIRTLES: In a country with an obsessive smart phone culture, live streamers are carving out an increasingly large niche.

A recent report valued the new market at more than $11 billion, more than China's annual film box office. The most popular stars broadcast to millions and can make more than $20,000 per month, 13 times the average salaries in big cities.

XI RAE (translation): It's because people are all watching pretty girls! (Laughs) These presenters are all quite beautiful. So even if people are working and busy, watching pretty girls helps men relax a bit.

BILL BIRTLES: Nineteen-year-old Xi Rae doesn't regard herself as being among the online stars. She is using the platforms with a specific goal in mind:

XI RAE (translation): I do live streaming because it's a good chance to practise. In the future, I want to become an official football commentator for television or online broadcasters. So this is a good way to develop my skills.

Beautiful women are just one type of live stream star. If you're charismatic, people will watch you. If you're funny or really good at playing video games, you will definitely attract a lot of followers.

BILL BIRTLES: Well, talking about football or singing karaoke can be a lucrative little hobby here, but live streaming does have a seedier side.

Recently authorities have moved to crack down on online stars who are deemed to be pushing the boundaries of good taste.

(Live streaming video footage of young women eating bananas)

BILL BIRTLES: Dozens of tech companies are being forced to close the accounts of users who break decency rules. "Erotic banana eating" is among the activities now officially banned.

TRACEY XIANG, TECHNOLOGY WRITER: There is a latest research report. It's an online survey and it shows that two-thirds of the audiences are male. And the majority of the broadcasters are ladies. And there is a result showing that - and those audiences: they say they don't care what kind of content streamed. They just care whether broadcasters are "good looking" - and good-looking young ladies. Yeah.

BILL BIRTLES: Technology journalist Tracey Xiang has closely watched the development of the live streaming sector in China. She says the millions of young people who have moved to soulless metropolises for work are a captive audience.

TRACEY XIANG: I think it is a kind of - like, it's a sense of belonging. It is like a widespread fans, like, follow the singers. And they don't care whether you're a first-year star or whoever. And especially right now, we have some location-based social services that enable you to chat with people in your same city. So it's very possible that, yes, tomorrow you will run into him or her.

BILL BIRTLES: As the government moves to clean up the live-stream space, performers are looking for increasingly novel ways to attract viewers and their money.

And with new apps being developed daily and so much money to be made, turning off the live stream is moving more and more difficult.

LI DAPENG (translation): I keep telling my fans, live streaming is only entertainment and should always come after work, study and your family.

But everyone will have a moment of emptiness and loneliness. And if my live streaming can put them in a good mood, I believe it will all be worth it.