For decades, Riyadh has insisted that it does not wield oil as a diplomatic weapon, but last weekend it did just that as part of an intensifying conflict with Iran.
For John Kemp's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
No one should underestimate the determination of Saudi Arabia's new rulers to overhaul the kingdom's economy, but the immense challenges should not be underestimated either.
Saudi Arabia's execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has exposed the dangerous political, religious and socioeconomic fault lines that run through the kingdom and the Gulf.
Cheaper sources of energy, not government policies, serve as the greatest incentive for phasing out the use of coal.
OPEC's decision on Friday not to cut production was entirely predictable and the only practical option open to its members.
The South China Sea has become a critical testing ground for the changing economic, political and military relationship between China and the United States.
Xi Jinping is being called China's first U.S.-style president because of how he has cultivated a distinctly presidential approach abroad, overseen loans and trade deals with strategic partners and used the "bully pulpit" at home to advocate a clear policy direction.
Saudi Arabia's top policymakers deny they have deliberately sought lower oil prices, and there are good reasons to doubt the kingdom is wielding the oil weapon as part of some grand geopolitical strategy.
Sluggish demand growth in response to the quadrupling of oil prices between 2002 and 2012 is at least as a big a challenge for OPEC as rising shale output.
Pollution is literally killing the inhabitants of China's most polluted cities.