Originally Posted by Soup
As far as I'm aware, there is no formal English grammar rule that requires a pronoun to refer to the immediate noun as its intended antecedent. Pronouns do usually refer to the closest noun -- but not always. Context also provides determination of what noun the writer (or speaker) intends as the antecedent. And given the context of the posed sentence, it is obvious -- as you concede -- that the intended antecedent is in fact China. Why? - simply because logic tells us that "those policies" -- the closest possible antecedent -- cannot possibly act by themselves to "open up," but require people to perform this action; thus context obviously determines that they refers to China here.
The awkwardness of this sentence, then, is not mistaking which antecendent is intended -- context already determines that -- but the fact that they must mean all of the Chinese people -- a logical impossibility.
Yes. The title of the thread is as you note, "Using they in a singular sentence?" The example that you provided in your first post, however, --
-- is specifically about as you say, using they "as a singular genderless substitute for he or she," which clearly is not the issue of the posed sentence: Here, in the posed sentence, we have no issue of genderless substitute arising at all. And that is my point. Bringing this tangential issue into the context of this discussion only serves to cloud the real issue here -- especially for a foreign language student.
Originally Posted by konungursvia
No. The real issue here is one of clarity of writing and meaning. In other words, requiring the obviously originally intended antecedent, China, to conform logically within its context. And, as previously explained, the context of the posed sentence tells us that all of the Chinese people is clearly not what the writer has intended. Thus the suggested correction:
The Chinese government
recognized that those policies were not productive, and
to open up. China started reforming
economy after the 1980s, and
a policy of opening up to the outside world; because of that,
economy has been rejuvenated and growing every since.