Cixi’s Return to the Regency

Cixi stepped down from the regency in favor of her teenage son, the Tongzhi Emperor, in 1873. Cixi retired to other projects, devoting herself to building a sumptuous new Summer Palace to replace the one destroyed by the British. But when her son died suddenly in 1875, Cixi quickly maneuvered to put herself back in charge, putting her two-year-old nephew on the throne as the Guangxu Emperor.

Back in the role of regent, Cixi put even more faith in the reforms of Li Hongzhang, but also fell victim to a hawkish streak among Chinese officials. Emboldened by a treaty with Russia that gave China back control over a large area that had been occupied by Russian troops, China sought to avenge their defeat by the French and British in 1860 and recapture another area formerly under their sphere of influence: Vietnam. Once again, however, the French forces easily defeated the Chinese.