Well done Laura!
She plays Lourdes Dominguez Lino (WR67) next, who knocked out 15th seed Roberta Vinci.
Looking at the draw I just noticed that players who reached semi-finals in Tokyo get a 1st round bye in Beijing, but others don't. So 1st and 2nd seeds Azarenka and Sharapova play 1st round, unseeded Petrova doesn't. Does it ever work like that in the men's?
For the men, normally it is the top 8/16/32 seeds that get a bye. It will be difficult for someone outside the seeding position who has just won a tournament to fly in on Monday and play again on Tuesday with almost no time to recover physically and get used to the new court condition although this situation is quite rare.
What they are doing with the women that you have just described makes sense. This gives a fighting chance for someone who is knackered after reaching the SF/F at Tokyo, followed by a flight to Beijing. Without the bye, the girl would have no chance.