Abstract The US has been engaged in and influenced international affairs following different ways of translating its diplomatic ideas. During the Cold War, freedom had been seen as the core of the American diplomatic ideas, being rooted in the American historical and cultural traditions. Actually, as early as the World War II, the US had entered the war with the slogan “to achieve freedom” rather than “to defend civilization or democracy”. During the Cold War, the slogan of “freedom” had naturally and comprehensively been applied to the new struggle and became the banner of the US struggle against the Soviet Union. During this period, the US had been regarded as the leader of the Free World and adopted various strategies such as economic assistance, cultural propaganda and religious movements to export the value of freedom to the world, forming a model of the Free Diplomacy.
However, this does not mean that the US had not exported democratic values to the world at this stage. Rather, freedom and democracy have always been important values of the American diplomacy. At the beginning of the Cold War, America had grafted the western democratic system to Japan and Germany. However, during the Cold War, the concept of freedom occupied a more central position in the discourse of the American diplomacy. It was not until the end of the cold war when democracy was rising to be adopted in the national strategy and thus became the core idea of the American diplomacy. With the introduction of the strategy of participation and expansion, the US has gradually adopted various strategies such as economic assistance and sanctions, cultural propaganda, political infiltration and military intervention to export democratic values and American democratic systems, forming a model of the Democratic Diplomacy.
There are many reasons why American diplomatic ideas have witnessed a shift from freedom to democracy. After the cold war, in order to establish and maintain the USdominant world order, it needs to establish the American democratic systems globally. While the threat of the Soviet Union does not exist there, the US has been confronting vague and generalized threats. Therefore, the US has to shape a secure international environment by forming the Democratic Diplomacy. At the end of the Cold War, the third wave of democratization also had an important impact on global politics. Democratic values have been deeply rooted in public awareness, and democratic discourses offer new supports for the hegemonic rule dominated by the US. Following this, the American liberal ideology has also been constantly strengthening, and the “Democratic Peace Theory” has been recognized by American foreign policy makers and has become a guiding principle of foreign policy. In addition, the rise of neoconservative forces has made a contribution to the turn of the US diplomatic ideas.