Slogans matter in China. From "socialism with Chinese characteristics” to "common prosperity” the adoption of new catchphrases can herald profound shifts in policy.

So, when "new productive forces” was listed as the top task in the government’s annual statement of priorities published on March 5, it set off a scramble to decode what the elevation of the phrase — coined by Chinese President Xi Jinping last September — meant. Since 2014, there’s only been one other occasion where an industrial policy slogan has taken top billing. Typically, that slot has gone to pledges about macroeconomic policy.

State media tried to explain how the concept fits in with Karl Marx’s theories on production, while stock investors pounced on the idea that the catchphrase signaled a greater emphasis on the manufacturing of intelligent tools and machines. Shares of related firms, from humanoid robotics makers to producers of aircraft parts, rallied on speculation they will benefit from increased state spending and a growing market.