China's exports handily beat expectations in January, rising 10.6 percent from a year earlier, while imports jumped 10 percent, leaving the country with a trade surplus of $31.9 billion for the month, the Customs Administration said Wednesday.

Those figures far exceeded market expectations in a Reuters poll for a rise of 2 percent in exports, a 3 percent rise in imports and a trade surplus of $23.65 billion.

"As there is the New Year distortion, it's always very hard to read the first three months of China's trade," Bert Hofman, chief economist of East Asia and Pacific at the World Bank, told CNBC.

The Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul stock markets all rose on the news, although the Shanghai composite was down.