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Qin Lijuan, a senior wealth management consultant and manager at CreditEase, poses for pictures in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, September 13, 2017. Picture taken September 13, 2017. REUTERS/John Ruwitch

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By John Ruwitch and Anita Li

CHENGDU, China (Reuters) - When she was a child, Qin Lijuan's grandfather was the local Communist Party boss in the district where they lived in southwestern China. But one of her favourite things to do was decidedly capitalistic.

Her grandmother ran a shop and around Chinese New Year was flush with cash. Qin loved handling the money and counting it. She wanted to be rich one day.

"When I was little I told my grandma that when I was done with school I'd take care of the store," she said.

When she eventually went to university in the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, Qin, who goes by the English name Coco, still had money on her mind.

Studying animation at a branch of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Qin counted her pennies and dreamed of making 10,000 yuan a month so that she could enjoy the best of what the thriving city had to offer.

"At the time I thought, very simplistically, I'd eat the best that Chengdu has to offer and see the best things," she said. "That's how big my dream was."

However, she learned that working as an animator on video games or in movies, natural career paths in her field, would earn her less than half of what she hoped for.

She decided to look elsewhere and in early 2014 a friend helped her land a job selling memberships to an exclusive golf club with branches around China.

She quickly got the hang of sales and learned to network within the small circles of people rich enough to join the club.

As she picked up clients, though, a sweeping anti-corruption campaign launched by President Xi Jinping was gaining traction.

Xi targeted extravagant behaviour, including golf, which was regarded as synonymous with wealth and power. In 2015, the party banned officials from holding golf club memberships.

Even before that happened, Qin felt the effects of the campaign. Officials began quietly returning memberships or transferring them to others, she said. Golf memberships had become a liability.

"Business wasn't as good as before," she said.

Her mother had recently had minor surgery, so Qin decided it was a good time to leave the golf company and move back to her hometown of Nanchong, a city in Sichuan province some 200 km (125 miles) east of Chengdu.

She moved in with her sister and got a job managing a new golf driving range, but soon felt out of place after more than five years in the provincial capital.

She said she felt a strong sense of culture shock. "I basically couldn't find similar people in terms of their thinking," she said.

In Chengdu, she had grown accustomed to having a coffee to start the morning, but her colleagues at the driving range in Nanchong thought that was pretentious.

She felt she had outgrown her hometown and wasn't moving forward.

Chengdu beckoned, but she knew she needed a new job. She had been interested in finance but didn't know much about it, so she enrolled in a wealth management course.

Within months, she moved back to Chengdu and was hired by a consumer credit company where she has worked for the past two years.

The dreams of the cash-counting girl seemed back on track but the future remains uncertain.

"I'm quite anxious," she said. "My main concern is whether or not I'll have enough earning power."

(Editing by Philip McClellan)

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