Jason Tower is the country director for the Burma program at USIP.

Tower has over 20 years of experience working on conflict and security issues in China and Southeast Asia. Prior to USIP, 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.

During this time, Tower also worked extensively in Burma on peace and security issues. He previously served as Southeast Asia program manager for the PeaceNexus Foundation, managing a portfolio of grants and partnerships in China, Burma and Cambodia.

Tower’s research focuses on a range of issues at the nexus of crime and conflict in Southeast Asia. Recent work includes a study of the impacts of transnational criminal networks on conflict in Burma and regional security across Southeast Asia; a report on criminal activity on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); and a review of the impacts of the BRI on conflict. Additionally, Tower has also published more than a dozen articles analyzing the impacts of the Myanmar coup, including on regional security in Asia.

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 is fluent in Mandarin and has been named a Fulbright research student, a Fulbright-Hays scholar and a Harvard-Yenching fellow.

Publications By Jason

Three Years After Coup, Myanmar’s Generals Face an Existential Crisis

Three Years After Coup, Myanmar’s Generals Face an Existential Crisis

Thursday, February 1, 2024

By: Priscilla A. Clapp;  Billy Ford;  Nang Raw;  Jason Tower;  Andrew Wells-Dang, Ph.D.

Three years after Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government, the ruling generals — having suffered humiliating battlefield defeats — face an existential crisis. Victories by the diverse ranks of Myanmar’s resistance have invigorated their morale and they are tightening battlefield coordination despite slow progress toward political consensus. The military, meanwhile, is short of manpower and controls a shrinking percentage of the nation.

Type: Analysis

Global Policy

Jason Tower on China’s Growing Influence in Myanmar

Jason Tower on China’s Growing Influence in Myanmar

Thursday, January 18, 2024

By: Jason Tower

A string of recent defeats for Myanmar’s junta has “re-energized the resistance across the country,” says USIP’s Jason Tower. But as China takes a more involved approach to the conflict, there are concerns that “growing Chinese influence might pose more of a challenge to a free and open Indo-Pacific in the future.”

Type: Podcast

China’s Influence Increases amid Myanmar’s Instability

China’s Influence Increases amid Myanmar’s Instability

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

By: Priscilla A. Clapp;  Jason Tower

Operation 1027 in Myanmar’s northern Shan State has advanced China’s quest to eradicate forced labor scam compounds on its border. However, it has also disrupted the lucrative China-Myanmar border trade and triggered a countrywide attack by resistance forces that has dealt the junta unprecedented battlefield losses. Beijing is concerned that its southwestern provinces will experience economic hardship with the loss of border trade, and that continuing hostilities may affect these provinces’ energy security. The Myanmar army’s desperate request for Chinese help to deal with the fallout from Operation 1027 has probably generated further concern in China that the military may be on the brink of defeat.

Type: Analysis

Global Policy

Myanmar’s Junta Is Losing Control of Its Border with China

Myanmar’s Junta Is Losing Control of Its Border with China

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

By: Priscilla A. Clapp;  Jason Tower

Myanmar’s military has lost control of substantial sections of the country’s border with China in recent days, as forces fighting the coup regime coordinate their attacks in an unprecedented way. The immediate aim of the combined offensive was to shut down lucrative criminal activity in enclaves along the Chinese frontier that are run by military-sponsored border guard forces. Significantly, in doing so, the insurgents took advantage of China’s recent efforts to stifle scams run from the enclaves that target Chinese citizens. This could mark a turning point in the national struggle against military rule, one that would pose serious new challenges to the anti-coup leadership, the international community and Myanmar’s neighbors.

Type: Analysis

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Myanmar’s Crisis Looms Over the ASEAN Summit

Myanmar’s Crisis Looms Over the ASEAN Summit

Thursday, September 7, 2023

By: Brian Harding;  Jason Tower

This week, Indonesia hosted the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and its related meetings with dialogue partners, including the East Asia Summit, in Jakarta. The three-day affair was bogged down by the bloc’s continued inability to sort through internal divisions over member-state Myanmar’s 2021 military coup, which has allowed the ruling junta’s violence and support for criminal enterprises to fester into transnational problems. Meanwhile, the absence of several leaders from major ASEAN partners, such as China’s Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden, further dampened proceedings.

Type: Analysis

Global Policy

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