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Early this year the founder of one of China’s biggest online dating sites – – told local television his company was making annual profits of around £20 million from its 36 million registered users.

Even the government sees helping men find love as a priority.

“They are not looking for toyboys,” said Mr Du, who is 45 and holds a Master’s degree in Engineering from the University of Minnesota but said he was happily married with two children.

“They are looking for guys who are very mature, understanding and very supportive, with a sense of humour and good taste [and] who know how to enjoy life and are honest.” A taste for Mahjong — a traditional Chinese gambling game — was also desirable, he added.

Despite a large social circle, she and her friends found it difficult to meet compatible men because of language and cultural barriers.

Mainstream dating sites, she says, didn't work.“Although these sites do provide a large pool of candidates, many of them are not of similar background, since most Chinese are not on these sites," said Zhao.

For men seeking a millionaire to call their own, Chengdu, home to nearly 15 million people, is not a bad place to start.

The region has experienced breakneck economic growth since Beijing began its “Go West” drive to develop China’s interior in 2000.

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“For women, it is almost impossible to choose downwards — their family and friends would not approve and they would face many difficulties.” Mr Du’s hunt for eligible bachelors, a collaboration with Hong Kong-based dating agency Feng Qiu Huang, began on June 18 when he began taking online applications from across China and the world.

Phase two of the search will begin on July 20 when organisers start sifting through CVs and vetting the would-be husbands in a series of face-to-face meetings with relationship specialists and fortune-tellers in hotels around China.

A shortlist of 100 men will be invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to Chengdu on August 23, China’s Valentines’ Day, for dinner dates with the 36 women, all aged between 28 and 49.

“I believe this is the first time [there has been such a scheme] only tailored for wealthy women,” Mr Du told The Daily Telegraph this week during a visit to Shanghai, one of the cities he is tapping for potential husbands.

Dating is big business in China, a country that is reputedly home to some 180 million single people.

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