Jason Tower joined USIP in late 2019 as the country director for the Burma program based in Yangon. 
 
Prior to USIP, Jason served in senior positions with several other peacebuilding organizations in China and Southeast Asia. From 2009 to 2017, Jason worked to establish the Beijing office of the American Friends Service Committee and initiated programming across north and southeast Asia on the impacts of cross-border investments on conflict dynamics. He also led a series of research initiatives relevant to China’s role in peacekeeping operations in East Africa and on China’s evolving role in international conflict dynamics. During this time, Jason also worked extensively in Burma on peace and security issues. From 2018 to 2019, Jason served as Southeast Asia program manager for the PeaceNexus Foundation, managing a portfolio of grants and partnerships in China, Burma, and Cambodia.    

Jason completed his undergraduate work in economics and international studies at St. Louis University, and his graduate studies in political science and Asian studies at the University of Michigan. He later earned a graduate certificate in company-community mediation from the Graduate School of Business at Cape Town University. He has been named a Fulbright research student, a Fulbright-Hays scholar, and a Harvard-Yenching fellow.

Jason is fluent in Mandarin and has published widely on China’s involvement in peace and security issues, with recent publications on the Belt and Road Initiative and a report based on years of experience working with Chinese corporate stakeholders.

Publications By Jason

The Dangers of Myanmar’s Ungoverned Casino Cities

The Dangers of Myanmar’s Ungoverned Casino Cities

Thursday, August 6, 2020

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

As a struggling, incomplete democracy, Myanmar and its elected leaders face challenges that would confound any country. The best-known involve the military’s uneven loosening of a 50-year dictatorship; ethnic tensions and armed conflicts; the lack of a common national identity; entrenched poverty; and the complications of borders with five nations, including China. Less well known is an emerging threat that touches each of these vital concerns. Over the past three years, transnational networks with links to organized crime have partnered with local armed groups, carving out autonomous enclaves and building so-called “smart cities” to tap into the huge, but illegal, Chinese online gambling market. Myanmar’s leaders at every level and in every sector should pay serious attention to the alarming national implications of these developments.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

Myanmar: Casino Cities Run on Blockchain Threaten Nation’s Sovereignty

Myanmar: Casino Cities Run on Blockchain Threaten Nation’s Sovereignty

Thursday, July 30, 2020

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

On January 20, a young venture capitalist named Douglas Gan sat down in a Philippine television studio to discuss, in part, an exciting new “Smart City” project his firm had become involved in. Sporting a black hoodie over a white tee-shirt, Gan described how one of his companies, Building Cities Beyond Blockchain, was already at work in Myanmar’s Yatai New City, recording instantaneous property transfers and showing the potential of blockchain technology. It’s a start, the anchor said. Gan agreed.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

Myanmar’s Casino Cities: The Role of China and Transnational Criminal Networks

Myanmar’s Casino Cities: The Role of China and Transnational Criminal Networks

Monday, July 27, 2020

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

Seeking to profit from China's lucrative but illegal gambling market, a shady web of actors has begun building resort cities in Myanmar’s Karen State to cater to Chinese gamblers. This report casts light on the actors behind Myanmar’s illegal gambling sector, their linkages to Chinese government entities and to Myanmar's armed groups and military, and how their actions could upend Myanmar’s prospects for peace.

Type: Special Report

Economics & Environment

Myanmar: Transnational Networks Plan Digital Dodge in Casino Enclaves

Myanmar: Transnational Networks Plan Digital Dodge in Casino Enclaves

Thursday, July 23, 2020

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

The plans transnational crime groups have for Myanmar’s border region with Thailand are by no means easy to understand. Shards of information lie scattered across China, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand. They appear in various languages in publicity videos on the internet, in business plans circulated on social media, and in white papers released by companies and individuals launching increasingly sophisticated schemes. The outline becomes clear, however, after cutting through denials and obfuscations, untangling local and international politics, and assembling the fragmentary data: A multinational cohort of individuals, linked to cross-border criminal activity, has allied with local armed groups in Myanmar to establish a base of operations beyond the reach of its civilian government. This creates an optimal environment to tap into the $25 billion-a-year illegal online gambling market in the People’s Republic of China.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

China Using Pandemic Aid to Push Myanmar Economic Corridor

China Using Pandemic Aid to Push Myanmar Economic Corridor

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

By: Jason Tower

From almost the moment Myanmar detected its first case of COVID-19 on March 23, China jumped to aid its neighbor to the south. China’s army, navy, and government agencies, as well as companies, showered nearly every level of Myanmar’s government and military with health assistance. The question for Myanmar civil society groups was whether the help came with strings attached. On May 21, they got their answer: After a phone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Myanmar’s President U Win Myint about COVID-19 response and Chinese assistance, Xi moved to a second agenda item—the implementation of 33 cooperative economic agreements signed during his historic visit to Myanmar in January. Of particular concern: co-construction of the multi-billion-dollar China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Global Health

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