Chinese companies listed in New York and London have been considered the best of the best. For years, a listing on one of the major overseas exchanges was seen by investors in China as an achievement.
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However, the SEC probes into Chinese companies, some of which avoided IPO scrutiny by arranging reverse mergers with already listed firms, is undermining the reputation of Chinese firms for investors such as Florence Xu. Xu lost a large portion of her life savings in the Chinese stock market. "Listing requirements overseas are stricter versus local listing rules," she said. "I'm worried about accounting standards here just like most Chinese."
Those worries reflect a general problem with the stock markets in China - many people don't trust what they are buying. Historically, the markets here have gone through booms and busts but have never gained the stature enjoyed by the overall economy - now the world's second largest.
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The Shanghai Composite has had a dismal year, and is one of the worst performing markets in Asia, after a poor 2011, when it fell 21.7 percent, largely due to retail investors losing confidence in the market.
Sophie Wu invested in stocks but switched to assets she considered safer such as housing and jewelry. "For property and gold, you can see the value rise over the years," she said. "Stock markets are determined by luck."
Compared to New York and London, exchanges in China are relatively new. International investors have limited access. The markets instead are dominated by small time Chinese investors. At trading rooms that feel like gambling dens, they bet on stocks based more on hearsay than by analyzing company profits or prospects.
Many investors have been constrained this year by the worst economic growth since the late 1990s and uncertainty over the nation's leadership change - keeping the Shanghai Composite near a four year low. "I've been investing for around 20 years," Zhao said as investors around him play cards. "Yet the markets are still a mystery to me."
Chinese authorities have promised to improve regulations, which analysts say could include a crackdown on insider trading and forcing weak firms to delist.
Xu would welcome any moves to protect investors and develop China's stock markets as a reliable investment option. "As an investor, we need to look at the long-term earnings," she said. "I don't know which companies may be susceptible [to false accounting] but once I know of it, I would run from it like the plague."
Additional reporting by Juliana Yeh