Her annual bonus was slashed by 60% and her salary was frozen. Family expenses are on the rise with two kids in school. After a rough 2023, it didn’t take long for Gracie, who works at an investment bank in Shenzhen, to come up with her resolution for the Year of the Dragon: landing a job just across the border in higher-paying Hong Kong.

"I feel lost and I don’t see many ways out,” she said, asking to be identified only by her first name due to the sensitivity of the matter. Her biggest worry is losing her job as companies across China downsize, she said.

Vilified by Beijing as "hedonists” over their lavish lifestyles, finance workers like Gracie are rethinking their careers. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for "common prosperity” has hit salaries hard and triggered belt-tightening. On top of that, a dragnet on alleged corruption has ensnared more than 100 financial and executive officials last year alone, unnerving the entire industry.