China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Challenges for PMOs



By Abid Mustafa




“Who rules the Heartland (Eurasia) commands the World Island;
Who rules the World Island commands the World”
—Mackinder [1]


There is little doubt that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) stands out to be the most humongous complex programme undertaken in the 21st century. BRI spans 152 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. As of 2017, some estimates put BRI, as one of the largest infrastructure and investment initiatives in history, encompassing around 68 countries, which comprises 65% of the world’s population and possesses 40% of the global gross domestic. [2, 3]

Such a huge transformational undertaking, which will directly affect the lives of 4.4 billion, has upset several countries. [4] China has constantly played down the geostrategic importance of BRI and has asserted that BRI is about “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future”. [5] Meanwhile, America has emerged as BRI’s chief opponent, and regards the initiative as displacing America’s primacy in Eurasia.

By 2049, 1700 initiatives valued at $1 trillion have to be delivered, and this may present an insurmountable challenge for programme management offices (PMO)s, programme and project managers. [6] Added to BRI’s gigantic scope and difficulty is vigorous American opposition, which poses a significant risk to the longevity and success of such an enormous programme.

Notwithstanding the foregoing challenges, the existing body of programme management knowledge is more than adequate to deliver BRI on time, within budget, according to specification and with the intended business benefits. While it is difficult to imagine the BRI operating without PMOs (centralized executive programme management office (EPMO) liaising with distributed programme/project management offices), this article intends to address some of the consideration the EPMO may instigate in the implementation of such an initiative.


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How to cite this article: Mustafa, A. (2019). China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Challenges for PMOs; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue XI, December. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/pmwj88-Dec2019-Mustafa-Chinas-Belt-and-Road-Initiative.pdf



About the Author

Abid Mustafa

Dubai, UAE




Abid Mustafa is a seasoned professional with 20+ years’ experience in the IT and Telecommunications industries, specializing in enhancing corporate performance through the establishment and operation of executive PMOs and delivering tangible benefits through the management of complex transformation programs and projects. Currently, he delivers complex digital transformation initiatives in the MENA region. His currently specialty is robotic process automation (RPA) and conversational artificial intelligence (CAI).

Mr. Mustafa is currently based in Dubai and can be contacted at corporatethinking@hotmail.com.