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The Belarusian pummelled Kenin with a succession of mighty serves and groundstrokes and wrapped up the opening set with an ace after just 23 minutes.
The 25-year-old broke serve twice more in the second set as Kenin -- playing with heavy strapping on her left thigh -- failed to muster a response.
Sabalenka sealed the match with yet another unreturned serve to set up a tie against either Magdalena Frech or Katie Boulter in the next round.
All of the world's top eight are taking part in the women's draw this year, with second-ranked Iga Swiatek due to play Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo.
The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing ended its isolationist zero-Covid policies.
The women's tournament is also in action for the first time since the global governing body ended a boycott of China this year.
The embargo had been declared after Chinese player Peng Shuai made sexual assault accusations against a top government official.