Roldan Rodriguez lost the lead of the GP2 Asia feature race at Shanghai on the first lap, as Kamui Kobayashi dived past him at the hairpin.
But he took the lead back five laps from the flag as Kobayashi ran wide at turn one.
Kobayashi has been favourite for the championship after being dominant in pre-season testing. But Rodriguez, who moved to Piquet Sports for the Asian series, nicked pole position and converted it into a victory.
There were two safety car interruptions in the way but the race was otherwise fairly uneventful.
Sakon Yamamoto finished third for ART while team mate Nelson Philippe, making his GP2 debut, stalled at the start then broke his front wing while leaving the pits.
Javier Villa moved finished fourth in his first appearance for Arden, ahead of Vitaly Petrov. Earl Bamber was fourth, the rookie making an impressive start by weeping around at least one car on the outside of turn one.
Another rookie, Formula Master champion Chris van der Drift, was seventh, ahead of Davide Valsecchi. Valsecchi, who won the final race of the GP2 main series, starts tomorrow’s sprint race from pole position.
Jerome d’Ambrosio finished out of the points after his pit stop went disastrously wrong, and World Series by Renault champion Giedo van der Garde was tenth.