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

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

COVID-19 and Conflict: Burma

COVID-19 and Conflict: Burma

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

By: Jason Tower

2020 loomed as a momentous year for Burma even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to societies and economies around the world. The country was preparing for national elections while struggling to end Asia’s longest standing civil war, and now faces these challenges alongside the added burden of the coronavirus. In this #COVIDandConflict video, Jason Tower looks at the country’s public health response, what the pandemic means for the peace process, and how it could affect the vote.

Type: Blog

Global Health

China’s Belt and Road: Progress on ‘Open, Green and Clean?’

China’s Belt and Road: Progress on ‘Open, Green and Clean?’

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

By: Jason Tower; Jennifer Staats

A year ago, Chinese leaders committed themselves to cleaning up their act in pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—Beijing’s plan to connect China to the world largely through infrastructure projects. The BRI had become synonymous with environmental degradation, corruption, and lack of transparency, and China’s top officials pledged new approaches. The Belt and Road Initiative, they said, would become “open, green, and clean” as it worked with partner countries to build public works, deepen trade linkages, and advance financial and development policy connections around the world.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

Chinese Crime Networks Partner with Myanmar Armed Groups

Chinese Crime Networks Partner with Myanmar Armed Groups

Monday, April 20, 2020

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

Along the banks of the Moei River that separates southeastern Burma from Thailand, three new cities are emerging on the traditional lands of Burma’s ethnic Karen. Not long ago, the area was wracked by intense combat between the Myanmar army and Karen nationalists. Today, hotels, casinos and condos are sprouting in unauthorized “special economic zones” owned and operated by murky Chinese business networks in partnership with local, mutually hostile armed groups. Of the three deals behind these cities, two were signed between January and March while the world focused single-mindedly on the spreading coronavirus.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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