Jason Tower joined USIP in late 2019 as the country director for the Burma program based in Yangon. 
 
Prior to USIP, Tower served in senior positions with several other peacebuilding organizations in China and Southeast Asia. From 2009 to 2017, he 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, Tower also worked extensively in Burma on peace and security issues. From 2018 to 2019, he served as Southeast Asia program manager for the PeaceNexus Foundation, managing a portfolio of grants and partnerships in China, Burma, and Cambodia.    

Tower 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.

Tower 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

Myanmar Regional Crime Webs Enjoy Post-Coup Resurgence: The Kokang Story

Myanmar Regional Crime Webs Enjoy Post-Coup Resurgence: The Kokang Story

Friday, August 27, 2021

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

Following the coup by the Myanmar army on February 1, 2021, fighting exploded immediately in the China-Myanmar border area along a strategic trade route between the two countries. But the outbreak wasn’t about the coup — instead it was a battle between two Chinese-speaking militias over control of the Kokang Special Administrative Zone, a lucrative center for illegal business. The story behind this episode provides a small window on the rise of regional criminal networks under the army’s patronage and how they are enjoying a new lease on life under the junta.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Economics & Environment

In Myanmar, the State the Generals Seized Is Coming Apart

In Myanmar, the State the Generals Seized Is Coming Apart

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By: Jason Tower

Over the past six months under the junta’s “care,” the chaos and turmoil sparked by the coup has moved the country past the brink of failed state status. Growing armed resistance is emerging in the shrinking area where the military’s unbridled brutality has preserved its veneer of control. In liberated zones and particularly in regions controlled by ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), new forms of governance and even sovereignty are taking shape in the vacuum left by Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s war on political reform. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Myanmar: China, the Coup and the Future

Myanmar: China, the Coup and the Future

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

In making major deals with Myanmar’s military rulers, China seems to be violating its official guidance for investment abroad: Avoid conflict zones. Although Myanmar is in a state of collapse and widening rebellion, China continues to advance plans for a complex economic corridor in the country with the military unveiling steps to move ahead with big joint-venture projects. The generals’ bid to appear in control of things is obvious. China, on the other hand, seems to have fallen into a trap. Cozying up to the junta puts its investments at immediate and long-term risk and erodes its standing in regional organizations. To protect its interests, Beijing should press the junta to curb its rampant violence against the population and to restore the elected government.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Chaos in Myanmar Is China’s Nightmare

Chaos in Myanmar Is China’s Nightmare

Friday, May 28, 2021

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

The suspicion that China approved the military coup against Myanmar’s elected government runs deep among Burmese resisting their new dictatorship. Perhaps proof of such meddling will emerge someday. For now, what seems clear is that China would not have chosen to knowingly embroil its interests in Myanmar in the chaos that has followed the army’s power grab. On virtually every front, from public health to national security, China now faces new threats created by the post-coup breakdown in governance and the rule of law. As these consequences come into focus, Beijing will have to decide whether to maintain its tacit acceptance of the generals’ regime or take a different policy tack to protect investments in its neighbor to the south.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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